By JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(PHILADELPHIA) — Speaking from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, former Vice President Joe Biden made a direct appeal to members of the Republican-controlled Senate not to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court created in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until voters make their choice for president this November.
“We need to de-escalate, not escalate. That’s why I appeal to those few Senate Republicans, the handful who really will decide what happens. Please follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created,” Biden, speaking from the National Constitution Center, said just days after the majority leader pledged that President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg will receive a vote on the Senate floor.
“Don’t go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can’t keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, ignoring our cherished system of checks and balances,” he added.
Biden acknowledged that his message was not aimed at Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but to a handful of senators who will have the deciding vote on an appointment.
“In just a few weeks, all votes of this nation will be heard. They’re the ones who, [in] the Constitution’s vision, should decide who has the power to make this appointment,” Biden argued.
“This appointment isn’t about the past. It’s about the future, and the people of this nation. And the people of this nation are choosing their future right now, as they vote. 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. President Trump has already made it clear. This is about power. Pure and simple. Power,” Biden added.
Thus far, only two sitting Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have indicated that the winner of the 2020 election should decide who should replace Ginsburg on the nation’s highest court.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed,” Murkowski wrote in a statement released on Sunday.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd,” Collins said Saturday.
In his remarks Sunday, the former vice president praises Ginsburg, who’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing he oversaw as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, as a “heroine,” and pointed to her well-known history of friendship with other Supreme Court justices despite ideological divides.
“This nation will continue to be inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But we should not only be inspired by her, we should be guided by her,” Biden said.
After Ginsburg’s death on Friday, the Democratic presidential nominee, who was on a plane traveling back to Delaware after a day of campaigning in Minnesota when the news broke, made clear his position that a replacement for the longtime justice should not be confirmed before November’s election.
“There is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the Justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters at an airport in New Castle, Delaware, on Friday evening.
“This was the position of — the Republican senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That’s the position the United States Senate must take today,” Biden added, referring to the Republican-led Senate’s blocking of President Barack Obama’s pick for the nation’s highest court in 2016 following the death of conservative juror Antonin Scalia.
Ginsburg’s death, which came just 46 days before Biden and Trump will face voters, has immediately made the vacant seat a priority for both candidates, and McConnell has vowed to allow Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg to receive a vote on the floor of the Senate.
“We will uphold equal justice under the law for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed. I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman,” Trump said at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Saturday evening.
Biden’s campaign has signaled that they will make a major push to put defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the forefront of voters’ minds — the former vice president’s team believes that Ginsburg’s death will “energize” voters that are “frustrated” by Trump’s and Republicans’ attempts to invalidate the law.
“Make no mistake: the fight to preserve protections for preexisting conditions is on the ballot. And that case will be heard before the Supreme Court a week after the election and a decision is expected in June of 2021,” the Biden campaign said. “Voters understand: the next Justice who goes on the Court will decide whether or not they will still have protections for pre-existing conditions.”
The campaign believes this is a “fight that’s good for Democrats,” and will motivate them to turn out for Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, especially given the fact that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a major case involving the ACA the week following the 2020 election.
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