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Biden on RBG’S replacement: What’s the rush?

10:57 PM Sep 21, 2020 | Agencies

Joe Biden on Sunday slammed President Donald Trump and leading Senate Republicans for trying to jam through a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and urged more senators to stand with a pair of GOP colleagues who oppose the election-season rush.

The extraordinary televised plea from the Democratic presidential candidate to Republican senators reflected the ferocious maneuvering that has followed Ginsburg's death at 87 on Friday.

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Her passing upended a campaign that had, until then, focused on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's economic collapse and racial unrest that has stoked protests in US cities.

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Trump has said he intends within days to name a woman to succeed the liberal icon, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was moving ahead swiftly with plans for confirmation hearings and votes.

Just hours before Biden spoke, a second Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined Sen Susan Collins of Maine in opposing efforts to fill Ginsburg's seat before the next president is elected.

It takes four Republicans to break ranks to keep Trump's nominee off the court.

Attention quickly focused on Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted to convict Trump on one count of impeachment, and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Biden acknowledged that those Republicans and others like them were his target audience when he warned that Trump's plan was an "abuse of power." "Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience," said Biden, speaking in battleground Pennsylvania. "Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have engulfed our country."

Just before Murkowski joined Collins, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the House having "options" she did not name to stall or prevent the Senate from confirming Ginsburg's successor to the lifetime job.

"We have arrows in our quiver that I'm not about to discuss right now," Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week." The House has no formal role in the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

But Pelosi would not rule out a new round of impeachment proceedings that might divert the Senate's attention. That route seemed unlikely.

Meanwhile, Murkowski raised by one the number of Republicans opposing a rush to confirmation.

"For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up" a potential nomination as the presidential election neared.

"Sadly," she said, "what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed." Collins, meanwhile, said the next president should name Ginsburg's replacement.

Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate. If there were a 50-50 tie, it could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

There is another potential wrinkle: Because Arizona's Senate race is a special election, that seat could be filled as early as November 30.

If the winner is Democrat Mark Kelly, that would narrow the window for McConnell.

Trump has said he is obligated to act as soon as possible and had at least two women in mind for the seat.

Most Republicans concurred on the need for speed and one named a practical reason: The nine-member court, argued Sen Ted Cruz of Texas, must be full if called upon to decide the outcome of a disputed presidential election.

But Biden and other Democrats said voters should choose the next president, who should pick Ginsburg's successor. Health care, abortion rights and religious freedom are on the line, they said. "The last thing we need is a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss and deeper into the darkness," Biden said.

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