Joe Biden warned on Friday that the nomination of a successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should wait until after the November presidential election as a row erupted in Washington only moments after her death was made public.
Ginsburg died at her home in Washington on Friday at the age of 87. Because Supreme Court judges sit for life, Ginsburg’s death leaves a vacancy on the court that the president is entitled by the US Constitution to fill. Donald Trump can now nominate a successor and the nomination can be ratified by the Senate in a process that usually takes about a month.
But Mr Biden, who is challenging Mr Trump in the presidential election on November 3, said the appointment should wait until after the election.
“The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Mr Biden told reporters.
It comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would vote on a potential nominee for the key court position, despite the looming election. He announced this about an hour after the news broke of Ginsburg’s passing.
It provoked fury from Democrats who accused Mr McConnell of hypocrisy. In 2017, he decided not to hold a vote for President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Mr Obama had nominated Mr Garland after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, but Republicans held the nomination open until after Mr Trump was took office in 2017, when they confirmed Neil Gorsuch, Mr Trump’s pick.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat, tweeted Mr McConnell’s exact words from 2016: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Mr Biden, paid tribute to Ginsburg on Friday, calling her a “giant in the legal profession”:
Joe Biden called Ruth Bader Ginsburg “not only a giant in the legal profession, but a beloved figure.”He said, “She practiced the highest American ideals as a justice — equality and justice under the law. Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us.” https://t.co/7rXtpkRRTi pic.twitter.com/2YtyauY4LM
— CNN (@CNN) September 19, 2020
Supreme Court judges can have a significant impact on US law and policy. Ginsburg had led the court in preventing a reversal of abortion rights, and blocking stronger executive powers for the president.
The court has a 5-4 conservative majority but Ginsburg’s death gives the Republicans the chance to have a 6-3 advantage that could shape American law for decades.
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