U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Sunday for the Republican-controlled Senate to delay confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, saying voters “are not going to stand for this abuse of power.”
Biden said the Senate should delay action until after he or Trump is inaugurated in January for a new four-year term. But Trump has said that moving forward with his choice of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is his constitutional duty, even though no Supreme Court nominee has ever been put forth so close to a presidential election.
Biden’s comments come as Democrats and Republicans moved to use the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to energize voters in the Nov. 3 election.
“The Senate has to stand strong for our democracy,” Biden said at a brief news conference in his home state of Delaware. He said the Senate moving ahead on the Barrett nomination “would be an irreversible step toward the brink. And a betrayal of a single quality that America is born and built on: The people decide.”
Should he win the election, Biden said the Barrett nomination should be withdrawn so he can make a pick.
But Trump, after nominating Barrett, a staunch conservative appellate court judge, on Saturday, told the Fox & Friends show that he thinks she can be confirmed before the vote, saying there is a “tremendous amount of time.”
“I think we could have it done easily before the election,” Trump said, adding that Republicans, with a 53-47 Senate majority are “going to try and have it done quickly.”
“I think she’ll be confirmed […] relatively long before the election,” Trump said, although an initial timetable laid out by Republican senators does not call for a final vote on her confirmation until late October, in the week before the election.
Trump announced Barrett’s nomination Saturday. He has said she is needed on the court to fill the seat held by Ginsburg, a liberal icon, so that in case of election disputes, there would be a full complement of nine justices to avoid potential 4-4 votes.
Barrett, with a lifetime appointment, would increase the court’s current 5-3 conservative majority to 6-3. Now 48, she would be the youngest justice on the court.
Democrats have accused the president of trying to set the stage for a disputed election, in part by suggesting – with scant evidence – that widespread use of mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic opens the door to fraud.
But rather than focus on her possible role in deciding an election dispute, Biden said a Justice Barrett could immediately threaten health care benefits for millions.
That’s because a week after the election, on November 10, the court is slated to hear arguments on a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the national health care law popularly known as Obamacare that was enacted in 2010 when then-President Barack Obama led the country and Biden was his vice president.
The Supreme Court, in another challenge to the health care law, narrowly upheld its constitutionality in 2012, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the deciding vote. In a law review article before she was named for a judgeship by Trump in 2017, Barrett criticized Roberts’ reasoning. As such, some court analysts believe she would vote to overturn the law.
In a New York Times/Sienna College poll taken Sept. 22-24, 56% of those surveyed said they would like to see the winner of the election make the Supreme Court pick. And 41% said Trump should make the appointment. The national survey has a 3.5 percentage point margin for error.
In his news conference, Biden said Barrett’s nomination is “about people’s health care in the middle of a pandemic,” referring to the coronavirus that, according to the Johns Hopkins University, has killed more than 204,000 people in the United States, more than any other country.
Despite Biden’s plea that the Senate “must not act on this nomination,” there is no indication that Republicans intend to delay the confirmation process.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that three days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee could open Oct. 12. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet said whether the Senate will vote before the election.
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