Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted Republicans Sunday for pushing to fill the Supreme Court seat of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 election and urged the GOP-controlled Senate not to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee before then.
The Democratic presidential nominee spoke in Philadelphia on Ginsburg’s legacy and her death Friday and what it means for the future of the conservative-leaning high court. Biden called out Trump and Senate Republicans for responding to the death by announcing their intention to fill the vacancy as fast as possible, even as general election voting in some states already begins.
“To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power, and I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it,” Biden said. “President Trump has already made it clear: This is about power. Pure and simple. Power.
“Well, the voters should make it clear on this issue and so many others: The power in this nation resides with them ― the people,” he added. “And even if President Trump wants to put forward a name now, the Senate should not act on it until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.”
Ginsburg, 87, died of complications from cancer. She was a political, legal and cultural icon known for championing civil rights and women’s liberation and for writing ground-shifting dissenting opinions. Ginsburg was one of the court’s more liberal justices, and conservatives are eager to fill her seat with one of their own, which would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority among the justices.
Ginsburg’s last wish was not to be replaced “until a new president is installed.” But just hours after her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the Senate floor. Trump said Saturday that he will announce his nominee “next week” and that the person will be a woman.
Democrats pointed to what they consider Republican hypocrisy in the effort to fast-track a Supreme Court confirmation weeks before Election Day.
In 2016, McConnell blocked a vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, whom then-President Barack Obama chose to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat. McConnell said at the time that a vote to confirm a nominee would come too close to an election and that the winner of the 2016 election should pick the nominee.
In his remarks Sunday, Biden quoted a 2016 speech by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in which he said, “Use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right” should Republicans try to confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year.
Biden also quoted 2016 comments by McConnell and GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
“Having made this their standard when it served their interest, they cannot, just four years later, change course when it doesn’t serve their ends. And I’m not being naive,” Biden said. “I’m not speaking to President Trump, who will do whatever he wants. I’m not speaking to Mitch McConnell, who will do what he does. I’m speaking to those Senate Republicans out there who know deep down what is right for the country ― not just for their party.”
Republicans hold a 53-seat majority in the Senate, meaning that it would take four GOP senators to defect for Trump’s nominee to fail.
Biden laid out what’s at stake with this Supreme Court vacancy: the availability of health care, the right to vote, the right to choose an abortion, the right to collective bargaining and protection against being deported.
The president released a list of potential nominees for Ginsburg’s seat and egged Biden on to release his own list. Biden declined to do so.
Biden reaffirmed an earlier promise that he would nominate a Black woman to the high court but said he would not release a list of potential associate justices because he did not want to influence a potential nominee’s decision-making in court.
Biden added that putting anyone on such a list would subject them to nonstop political attacks for months before any Senate hearing. He said he preferred first to consult with both Democratic and Republican senators before making any decisions.
“We face four historic crises: A once-in-a-generation pandemic; a devastating economic recession; the rise of white supremacy unseen since the 1960s and a reckoning on race long overdue; and a changing climate that is ravaging our nation as we speak,” Biden said.
“Supreme Court decisions touch every part of these crises ― every part of our lives and our future. The last thing we need is to add a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss ― deeper into the darkness,” he said. “If we go down this path, it would cause irreversible damage. The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal. Enough.”
Ginsburg’s death leaves the Supreme Court with just eight justices: five conservatives and three liberals. A tie vote among them could result in a potential deadlock should a challenge to the upcoming presidential election reach the high court.
In the event of a tie, the court usually issues a single-line collective decision saying it affirms a lower court’s decision. In an election challenge, that could mean the outcome is decided by an appellate court.
And that would likely favor Trump. The Senate under McConnell has confirmed more than 200 conservative judges to the federal judiciary, including 53 appellate court appointments, or 30% of all appellate court seats.