'Follow your conscience': Biden implores Senate Republicans to wait on election to fill Ginsburg seat

William Cummings   | USA TODAY Show Caption Hide Caption President Trump: Justice Ginsburg was 'an

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William Cummings   | USA TODAY
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sunday implored Senate Republicans to let the winner of the Nov. 3 election decide who will fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Ruth Bader's Ginsburg's death, telling them that to do otherwise risked "irreversible damage" to American democracy. 

Speaking at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden praised Ginsburg for achieving a level of standing in American culture that had been held by few Supreme Court justices.

"She did as much to advance the constitutional rights, opportunities and justice for women, as Justice Marshall did for African Americans," he said. 

Biden cited Ginsburg's reported dying wish that her replacement not be selected until there is a new president in office.

"As a nation, we should heed her final call to us, not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country, our country, at a crossroads," Biden said. 

Biden pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision not to bring Merrick Garland's nomination to a vote in 2016. "Having made this their standard," he said, "they cannot just four years later, change course when it doesn't serve their ends."

He said he was not "being naive" and addressing his comments to Trump or McConnell, but rather to Senate Republicans who "know deep down what is right for the country and consistent with the Constitution."

"Please follow your conscience. Don't vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Sen. McConnell have created," he said. "Don't go there." 

Two Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – have said they will not support a vote on a nominee before the election. But two more would be needed to join with the Democrats to reach the 51 votes required to block a nominee. 

November election: Trump, Democrats thrust Supreme Court fight forward as a central issue

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Ginsburg's successor was Trump's prerogative, regardless of the timing. 

"When there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, the President selects a nominee and the Senate provides advice and consent. That’s what the Constitution says and those are the only rules," Murtaugh said in a statement. "Make no mistake about this: The President has been clear that he will nominate a woman to fill that seat and the Senate should vote to confirm her." 

Echoing an attack the Trump campaign has hurled at Biden since the president released his list of potential candidates for the Supreme Court,  Murtaugh accused Biden of "hiding his list of potential nominees."

"Biden knows that he is an empty vessel for the radical left and that’s why he’s refusing to be honest with the American people about who he would want on the court," Murtaugh said. 

In his address Sunday, Biden said the Trump campaign's insistence on him releasing a list of potential nominees after Ginsburg's death demonstrates the matter is "a game for them" that's played to "gin up emotions and anger." 

"There's a reason why no presidential candidate, other than Donald Trump has ever done such a thing. First, putting a judge's name on lists like that could influence that person's decision making as a judge. And that would be wrong," Biden said.

"Second, anyone put in a list like that under these circumstances will be subject to unrelenting political attacks, because any nominee I would select would not get hearing until 2012 at the earliest." 

Finally, he said he didn't want his decision to be "based on a partisan election campaign." 

Biden repeated his pledge that he would nominate an African-American woman to the court. He said he would consult with senators from both parties about his pick, as well as "legal and civic leaders." 

"It will be the product of a process that extends our finest traditions, not the extension of what has torn the country apart for the last years," he vowed. He pointed to the challenges and division facing the country and warned against adding " a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss and deeper into the darkness."  

"If we go down this path, I predict it will cause irreversible damage," he warned. 

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