Sep 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden to Senate GOP after RBG passing: "Please follow your conscience"

Joe Biden made a direct appeal to Senate Republicans in a speech addressing the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, urging them to "cool the flames that have been engulfing our country" by waiting to confirm her replacement until after the election.

The state of play: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said soon after the news of Ginsburg's death that President Trump's nominee would get a vote on the Senate floor.

  • Two Republican senators — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — have thus far said they oppose holding a vote before Election Day.
  • Two more defections would likely force McConnell to hold a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress. Neither Collins nor Murkowski addressed how they would vote if Biden defeats Trump.

What he's saying: "We need to de-escalate. ... 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 Sen. McConnell have created," Biden said in a speech from Philadelphia.

  • "Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country."
  • "If we go down this path, I predict it will cause irreversible damage. The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal. Enough. Enough. Enough."

Why it matters: Biden's remarks were an opportunity for him to step up and provide alternate leadership during yet another monumental moment for the country. He's calling for unity and bipartisanship at a politically chaotic time, with Democrats and Republicans gearing up for an intense Supreme Court battle less than 50 days until an already high-stakes election.

"In just a few weeks, all votes of this nation will be heard. They're the ones who the Constitution envisions should decide who has the power to make this appointment," Biden said.

  • "To jam this through the Senate, that's just an exercise in raw political power," he added. "The last thing we need is a constitutional crisis."
  • "President Trump has made clear this is about power. Voters should make it clear on this issue and so many others, the power in this nation resides with them."

Biden said he spoke with Ginsburg's family on Saturday night.

  • “I spoke to her daughter and her granddaughter last night, expressing my whole family's sorrow, particularly my grown granddaughters', one of whom was a student of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s daughter at Columbia,” Biden shared.
  • He remembered her as "a heroine," an "icon" and a "righteous soul" who was a champion for women's rights.

The big picture: Ginsburg's replacement will shape the court for decades to come. Biden won't be releasing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, he said, calling it a political game.

  • "It's no wonder [Republicans] ask me to release the list only after she passes," Biden said. "It's a game for them, it's a play to gin up emotions and anger."
  • He also reiterated that his first Supreme Court pick if elected president would be a Black woman.

The bottom line: Biden said that if he's elected and given the opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, he would consult Democrats and Republicans in the Senate on his pick. "This nation needs to come together."

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