Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged Senate Republicans on September 21 not to vote on any candidate nominated to the US Supreme Court as the November election nears, calling President Donald Trump’s plan an “exercise of raw political power.” Biden said that if he wins the Presidential election, he should have the chance to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. The former Vice President rejected the idea of releasing the names of potential nominees, saying that doing so, as President Trump did, could improperly influence those candidates’ decisions in their current court roles as well as subject them to “unrelenting political attacks.” He reiterated his pledge to nominate an African-American woman to the court, which would be a historic first, if he has the opportunity.
Earlier on September 21, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she did not support Trump’s plan to move fast on filling the seat, becoming the second of the 53 Republicans in the 100-seat chamber to object publicly following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. On September 20, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said the presidential election winner should pick the nominee. She is locked in a tight re-election battle and is currently polling behind her Democratic challenger Sara Gideon. On the other hand, Lisa Murkowski’s Senate term does not end until 2022, though she is expected to face a tough primary election fight against 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, another moderate Republican, said in a statement he did not object to a vote, adding: “No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican president’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year.”
Democrats noted that in 2016 Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a vote on a Democratic appointee on the grounds that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer did not rule out that his party might move in the future to end the filibuster, a procedural tactic under which the support of 60 members is required to move to a vote on legislation if the Republicans went ahead with the nomination. “We first have to win the majority. … But if we win the majority, everything is on the table,” he said. A majority of Americans, some 62% including many Republicans, told a Reuters/Ipsos poll that they thought the winner of the November election should get to nominate a justice to fill the vacancy. Justice Antonin Scalia, a close friend of Ginsburg’s, died in February 2016, but McConnell blocked a vote on Democratic President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death upended the November election campaign, energizing both President Donald Trump’s conservative base, eager to see the court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and presenting new complications in the battle for control of the US Senate. “I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman,” President Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where supporters chanted: “Fill that seat.” Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have time to schedule a vote. While elections are on November 3, a new Congress will not be sworn in until January 3, with the winner of the presidential contest inaugurated on January 20.
Republican Senator John Barrasso, the second-highest-ranking Senate Republican and a strong ally of President Donald Trump on nearly every policy issue brushed off Democratic complaints in a September 22 interview. “Let’s be very clear – if the shoe were on the other foot and the Democrats had the White House and the Senate, they would right now be trying to confirm another member of the Supreme Court,” Barrasso said. Democrat Hillary Clinton, whom President Trump defeated in the 2016 election, called that view “indefensible.” “What’s happening in our country is incredibly dangerous,” said Clinton, whose husband, former President Bill Clinton, nominated Ginsburg to the court in 1993. “Our institutions are being basically undermined by the lust for power.”
President Donald Trump has already appointed two justices: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Justice Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed after a heated confirmation process in which he angrily denied accusations by a California university professor, Christine Blasey Ford, that he had sexually assaulted her in 1982 when the two were high school students in Maryland. On the other hand, Neil Gorsuch was somewhat easily confirmed in early 2017 but has ruled against President Trump at times on legal issues.