WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday whoever is elected president in November should be the one to nominate the next U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Biden, speaking to reporters from the New Castle Airport in Wilmington, Delaware, objected to a rushed nomination process to replace Ginsburg, who died Friday at 87. His remarks came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled plans to move ahead on filling the sudden court vacancy.
Biden, a former vice president, compared the new vacancy to the situation after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 before the presidential election won by President Donald Trump. McConnell then refused to take up President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
“There is no doubt – let me clear– that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden said. “This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That’s the position the United States Senate must take today.”
“And the election’s only 46 days off,” he added. “I think the fastest justice ever confirmed was 47 days. And the average is closer to 70 days. And so we should do this with full consideration, and that is my hope and expectation what will happen.”
Biden declined to answer questions from reporters.
Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberal justices selected by President Bill Clinton in 1993, died Friday after announcing July she suffered a recurrence of cancer and that lesions had been found on her liver.
Her vacancy gives Republicans a rare opportunity to solidify conservative control of the court, perhaps for decades to come, and it gives Trump a rare chance to appoint three justices in just one term. Her death has major ramifications on the presidential election, providing an opening for Trump to reframe the race from his handling of the coronavrius pandemic to the makeup of the high court.
Trump was brief in his remarks about Ginsburg following a campaign event in Minnesota.
“She just died? Wow. I didn’t know that,” Trump said. “She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not. She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that.”
The president did not say whether he intends to nominate a justice before the Nov. 3 election. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions, confirmed to USA TODAY that Trump intends to choose a nominee soon, though declined to discuss a specific timeline.
In a statement, McConnell said, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” he added. “Once again, we will keep our promise.”
Biden, in his short remarks about Ginsburg, called the justice “consistent and reliable and a voice for freedom and opportunity for everyone.”
“She never failed. She was fierce and unflinching in her pursuit of the civil and legal rights of everyone,” Biden said. Her opinions and her dissent are going to continue to shape the basis of our law for a generation. Tonight and in the coming days, we should focus on the loss of her justice and her enduring legacy.
Staff writers Richard Wolf, John Fritze, David Jackson, Christal Hayes and Phillip M. Bailey contributed to this report. Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.