Democrats face an uphill battle in blocking a Trump nominee, as Republicans hold 53 of the 100 Senate seats
PHILADELPHIA • White House hopeful Joe Biden on Sunday branded US President Donald Trump’s moves to fill a Supreme Court vacancy less than two months before the presidential election an “abuse of power”, as some of the president’s own party also objected.
The prospect of an expedited Senate confirmation vote has sparked furious pushback from Democrats who are desperate to stop Trump moving the court lastingly to the right.
Two Republican senators have also registered their opposition to any rushed vote to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the popular liberal justice who died last Friday at 87.
Biden, speaking on Sunday in Philadelphia, accused Trump of exercising “raw political power” by attempting to “ram” through his court choice amid a bitterly fought election campaign.
“I believe voters will make it clear — they will not stand for this abuse of power, this constitutional abuse,” said Biden, who urged the Senate not to act until after the Nov 3 election.
“If Trump wins the election then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh that nominee fairly. But if I win the election, Trump’s nomination should be withdrawn,” he said.
The president said on Saturday that he is going to “move quickly” and that he expected to announce his nominee in the coming week and that it “ will be a woman—a very talented, very brilliant woman”.
Biden urged a handful of wave- ringRepublicansenatorsto“follow your conscience”.
The timing of a Senate vote before the election or in the lame-duck session immediately afterwards remains unclear.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said no vote should take place before the election, while Susan Collins of Maine asserted that the choice should be left to whoever is elected in November.
With Republicans holding 53 of the 100 Senate seats, Democrats face an uphill battle in blocking a Trump nominee.
Either way, politicians in both parties are bracing for a seismic battle in a year that has already seen an impeachment vote, the Covid-19 pandemic and a bruising economic collapse.
‘Arrows in Our Quiver’
Among the Democrats’ few options: Delaying tactics in the Senate and efforts to mobilise public pressure onmoremoderateRepublicansto split with their party.
“We have our options…arrows in our quiver,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a senior Democrat, said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
She offered few details, but ruled out the possibility of a government shutdown.
The court vacancy has provided a welcome new theme for Trump — who has struggled to play down the toll of the coronavirus pandemic, now fast nearing the grim total of 200,000 deaths.
Pelosi seemed intent on keeping the virus issue front and centre, returning to that theme repeatedly during her ABC interview, just as Biden emphasised it in his speech.
‘Confirm before Election Day’
Democrats are decrying what they said is the hypocrisy of Republicans — particularly Senate leader Mitch McConnell — who in 2016 blocked Barack Obama’s attempt, much earlier in that election year, to fill another Supreme Court vacancy.
However, Republicans now insist that the situation this year is different, with the same party controlling both the Senate and White House.
“The right thing is for the Senate to confirm before Election Day,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz told ABC.
Both parties see the balance of the court as it rules on vexed issues including abortion, healthcare, gun control and LGBTQ rights as of utmost importance.
Although conservatives control five of the nine court seats, Chief Justice John Roberts sometimes sides with liberals.
If confirmed quickly enough, a new conservative justice would be part of a 6-3 majority and could play a crucial role in their first months on the court if the Novem- ber election faces legal challenges.
Cruz, who was on a Trump list of potential court nominees, insisted on Sunday that a full-court was needed to avoid a critical deadlock should a battle over the election outcome reach the Supreme Court.
“An equally divided 4-4 court can’t decide anything,” Cruz said. “We need a full-court on Election Day.”
Media reports said Trump is focused on two potential justices: Amy Coney Barrett, a 48-year-old Federal Appeals Court judge based in Chicago, and Barbara Lagoa, 52, a Federal judge from Miami.
Of the score of names on a tentative list released earlier by Trump, Barrett — a fervently anti-abortion Catholic — is considered among the most conservative.
Analysts said Lagoa, a Cuban-American, could help Trump win votes in the key state of Florida.
No date has been set for Ginsburg’s funeral or public memorial service, sure to be a major national event. — AFP