When news of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke Friday night, Joe Biden did not mince words. “Let me be clear,” Biden told a small gathering of reporters at New Castle Airport in Delaware. “The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.”
It was a warning shot for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, upon the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for almost 10 months. McConnell argued at the time that the voters “should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice” and, as such, declared that the vacancy would not be filled until the next president was seated.
Biden was eager to throw McConnell’s words back at him. He noted that the position he was taking was the same one McConnell took in 2016. And by McConnell’s own logic, Biden noted, McConnell’s precedent has even more salience now: Scalia died nearly nine months before the presidential election; there are now just 46 days until Election Day. “I think the fastest justice ever confirmed was 47 days,” Biden said, “and the average is closer to 70 days.”
McConnell, of course, has already contradicted his old position. In a statement Friday night, he promised that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Biden had heard of Ginsburg’s passing on his flight back to his home in Delaware, after a day of campaigning in Minnesota. He praised the late justice, calling her “a giant in the legal profession” and a “beloved figure.”