‘Follow your conscience’: In Philly, Biden calls on GOP to hold off on Supreme Court nominee

Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, about the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech in Philadelphia Sunday to try to sway a handful of Republicans in the U.S. Senate to wait until after the November election to confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87. Her dying wish was for her replacement to be named after the general election, which is 43 days away.

In his speech at the National Constitution Center Sunday, Biden pointed to the turbulent period the country is in as it nears 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and — because of a combination of virus-related restrictions and a struggling economy — millions of Americans remain unemployed.

“Health care in this country hangs in the balance before the court. And now in a raw political move this president and the Republican leader have decided to jam a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court through the United States Senate,” said Biden. “It’s the last thing we need at this moment.”

What’s more, Americans have already started casting their ballots for president, said Biden. He called on “those few Senate Republicans, the handful who will really decide what happens” to follow their conscience and decide on a nominee when the next president and Senate are in place.

With 53 Republicans in the Senate, up to three of them could vote no or refuse to vote and the GOP would still have the votes needed to confirm a nominee.

President Donald Trump has been ready for this moment. He’s kept a list of dozens of possible Supreme Court nominees, with his most recent additions to the list made earlier this month. At a rally Saturday, Trump pledged to nominate a woman to the court sometime this week.

Shortly after Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a Trump nominee will get a confirmation vote in the Senate this year.

For his part, Biden has only made public his hopes to name the first African American woman to the highest court and has been critical of how the Trump administration has gone about making his list of possible nominees public.

In his message to Senate Republicans, Biden pointed to how Ginsburg listened to those whose views were the polar opposite of hers, including Justice Antonin Scalia.

Embracing that spirit, Biden promised to work across the aisle should he win the election and consult “legal and civil leaders of our country.”

“In the end, the choice will be mine and mine alone but I will consult,” he said. “It will be the product of a process that restores our finest traditions, not the extension of one that has torn this country apart over the last years.”

Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are among the shortlist of Republicans that could thwart McConnell’s push for a confirmation.

Collins has already said November’s winner should get to make the nomination, but three of her Republican colleagues would have to join her in order to block a nomination.

Waiting is not unprecedented. McConnell famously blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination in 2016, arguing the new president should get to pick. What is unprecedented, according to experts, is to have enough pushback within a party to reject their own nominee.

Still, Biden pointed to the unprecedented times the country is in, including a changing climate and the country’s racial reckoning.

“The last thing we need is to add a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss, deeper into the darkness. If we go down this path, I believe we will cause irreversible damage.”

Which way will Pa. vote?

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