The Slatest

Biden Calls on Republican Senators to Wait on New Justice: “Follow Your Conscience”

Biden gestures with his hands while speaking at a podium
Joe Biden at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Sunday. Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made a direct appeal to Senate Republicans on Sunday, calling on them to recognize the historic nature of the moment and wait to confirm the replacement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a broad call for unity, Biden said it was up to Republicans to “cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.” Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden characterized it as a “raw political move” for the president and Republican leaders to try to get a new justice confirmed when the election is underway and “voters have already begun casting their votes.”

Biden made clear he was addressing those few Republicans who are in a position to make a difference. “Look, I’m not being naive. I’m not speaking to President Trump, who will do whatever he wants. I’m not speaking to Mitch McConnell, who will do what he wants, and he does,” Biden said. Rather, he added, he was addressing “Senate Republicans, who know deep down what is right for the country and consistent with the Constitution, as I stand here in the Constitution Center, not just what’s best for their party.” The former vice president called on the “handful” of Senate Republicans “who really will decide what happens” to “follow your conscience.”

The election is only six weeks away, and as people have already started voting, choosing a justice now would represent an “abuse of power,” Biden said. “The people of this nation are choosing their future right now, as they vote. To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power and I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it,” Biden said. Voters will “not stand for this abuse of power, this constitutional abuse,” he added. The former vice president also pointed out how Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland because it was an election year. “Having made this their standard when it served their interest, they cannot, just four years later, change course when it doesn’t serve their ends,” Biden said.

The Democratic presidential candidate went on to warn about dire effects on the country if Republicans decide to confirm Trump’s candidate. “The last thing we need is to add a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss, deeper into the darkness,” he said. “If we go down this path, I predict it will cause irreversible damage. The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal.”

Biden also made an emotional appeal, saying he spoke to Ginsburg’s family on Saturday night and noted how the justice asked that she not be replaced until a new president is in office. “As a nation, we should heed her final call,” Biden said, “not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country, our country, at a crossroads.”