Washington — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden indicated Sunday he will not be releasing a list of possible Supreme Court nominees despite growing pressure to do so. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday has left a vacancy on the high court and added another twist to the presidential race.
In remarks on the future of the Supreme Court from the National Constitution Center from Philadelphia, Biden singled out President Trump as the only presidential candidate to release a slate of possible nominees to the high court and suggested his doing so both in 2016 and 2020 set a dangerous precedent.
“First, putting a judge’s name on a list like that could influence that person’s decision making as a judge, and that would be wrong, or at least create the perception that it would have influence,” Biden said in explaining why he is not in favor of releasing a list of contenders. “Second, anyone put on a list like that under these circumstances would be subject to unrelenting political attacks, because any nominee I would select would not get a hearing until 2021 at the earliest. She would endure those attacks for months on end without being able to defend herself.”
Biden said his final reason for why he will not be releasing a list of Supreme Court nominees stems from the practice of past presidents to seek bipartisan consultation from the Senate.
“If I win, I’ll make my choice for the Supreme Court not based on a partisan election campaign, but on what prior presidents have done, Republican and Democrats, and I’ve served with many of them: Only after consulting Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate and seeking their advice and asking for their consent,” he said.
Biden said it was not a surprise that the Trump campaign is now following Ginbsurg’s death urging him to put forth his slate of candidates, as the future of the Supreme Court is a “game” and a “play to gin up emotions and anger.”
Ginsburg’s death at the age of 87 has already sparked a bitter confirmation fight, as Mr. Trump has said he will announce a nominee to fill the late justice’s seat in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged the president’s pick will receive a vote on the Senate floor.
But Biden and fellow Democrats have said the Senate should not move forward with a Supreme Court confirmation until after the inauguration in January 2021, citing McConnell’s decision to block Judge Merrick Garland’s confirmation in 2016. Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but Garland never received a confirmation hearing, as Republicans said the American people should have a say in who got to name a nominee in the presidential election.
“To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power,” Biden said about filling Ginsburg’s seat. “I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it.”
Biden noted that voting has already begun in some states and said the voices of the American people should be heard.
“If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh the nominee he chooses fairly,” he said. “But if I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn and as a new president, I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor.”
In his remarks, the former vice president’s first extended comments on the Supreme Court since Ginsburg’ death, Biden made an appeal directly to Senate Republicans who will be key in deciding whether the nomination is successful.
“Follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there,” he said. “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.”
With a slim majority of 53 seats in the Senate, McConnell can only afford to lose support for a nomination from three Republicans, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Already, two Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they are opposed to the Senate moving forward with confirmation before the election.