US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has urged the Republican-controlled Senate not to confirm a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before November’s election.
Speaking in Philadelphia on Sunday, Mr. Biden said voters should have a say on the matter.
Justice Ginsburg died on Friday, aged eighty-seven, after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. Her departure has jolted the presidential campaign just six weeks before the election and as several states are already voting.
Republican President Donald Trump has seized on the opportunity to nominate a new justice to motivate his most loyal voters.
In Sunday’s speech, Mr. Biden urged Senate Republicans not to vote on any candidate nominated to the Supreme Court as the November election approaches.
“Voters of this country should be heard … they’re the ones who this Constitution envisions should decide who has the power to make this appointment,” the Democratic nominee said.
“To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise of raw political power,” he added.
Appointment of a new justice by Mr. Trump, if approved by the Senate, would cement a 6-3 conservative majority that could influence US law and life for decades.
Mr. Biden also said if he wins the November 3 election, he should have the chance to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, a position he’s long since promised would be a black woman.
The former vice-president rejected the idea of releasing the names of potential nominees, saying that doing so, as Mr. Trump has done, could improperly
influence those candidates’ decisions in their current court roles as well as subject them to “unrelenting political attacks”.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and US Representative for New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a joint news conference that selecting another conservative to the court would put at risk healthcare and women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners on Saturday gathered for a second night outside the Supreme Court building, holding candles in honour of Justice Ginsburg and listening to a succession of testimonies and rallying speeches.
Among the speakers was Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren who eulogised Justice Ginsburg as “an icon, a trailblazer and a friend” and accused Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of seeking to cynically hijack the confirmation process.
The death of Justice Ginsburg means there are now only three judges appointed by Democratic presidents on the current Supreme court.
So far, two of the 53 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate have publicly kicked against Mr. Trump’s move to quickly replace Justice Ginsburg.
Four years ago, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic President Barack Obama from nominating a Supreme Court replacement months out from the 2016 election.