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Joe Biden says the election winner should appoint a new justice, calling on G.O.P. senators to defy their leadership.
Joe Biden on Sunday urged Republicans not to “jam” a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate before the presidential election, suggesting that such a move would amount to an “abuse of power,” in his first extensive remarks on the battle to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In a speech delivered at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden, a former vice president and the current Democratic presidential nominee, appealed directly to the “handful” of pivotal Senate Republicans “who really will decide what happens” to “follow your conscience,” wading head-on into a matter that many political observers believe has the power to define the final weeks of the presidential race.
“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 “But if I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn. As the new president, I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor, a nominee who should get a fair hearing in the Senate.”
President Trump has vowed to nominate a woman for the position in the next week, seizing on an issue that has the potential to electrify the bases of both political parties and to inject a new measure of uncertainty into the presidential race. The election is little more than six weeks away.
Justice Ginsburg was “a righteous soul,” Mr. Biden said. “She was proof, proof that courage and conviction and moral clarity can change not only the law, but can change our culture, can change the world.”
His remarks come as he and other Democrats seek to frame the Supreme Court vacancy battle as one defined, above all else, by the issue of health care amid a global pandemic.
They are casting their arguments in particular around protecting the Affordable Care Act, which Justice Ginsburg had voted to uphold, and its guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments a week after Election Day in a case that could determine the future of the health law.
Even before Justice Ginsburg’s death, Mr. Biden and other Democratic candidates had been emphasizing health care, hoping for a repeat of the success that Democratic House candidates found in the 2018 midterm elections when the party won control of the chamber.
For months, Mr. Biden had sought to make the election a referendum on Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic and its economic fallout. Over the weekend, Democrats began to link that message to the courts, arguing that the coronavirus crisis makes the issue of health care protections all the more urgent.
Lisa Murkowski becomes the second Republican Senator to oppose taking up the nomination before the election.
A second Republican senator came out against taking up a Supreme Court nomination before the election, potentially complicating Republican efforts to let President Trump swiftly fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said in a statement on Sunday that she would not support confirming a Supreme Court nominee before Election Day. Having objected to filling the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, she said she believed “the same standard must apply” less than two months before the presidential election.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” Ms. Murkowski said in a statement. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”
“I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia,” she said in the statement. “We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, on Saturday said not only that the Senate should not vote on a nominee before the election, but that the victor in the presidential election on Nov. 3 should fill the vacancy.
But another moderate senator, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a retiring Republican considered by many to be a strong defender of Senate traditions, on Sunday joined the growing ranks of Republicans in support of confirming Mr. Trump’s pick.
“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,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement. “The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it.”
Ms. Murkowski’s stance against a vote ahead of the November election was striking, particularly…