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Sept. 27, 2020, 4:24 p.m. EDT

Trump, Biden battle over quick confirmation of Supreme Court pick

Trump admits process may not go ‘smoothly,’ while Biden urges Senate to hold off on vote

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump acknowledged Sunday that confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett may not go “smoothly,” while his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, implored the Senate to hold off on voting on her nomination until after the Nov. 3 election to “let the people decide.”

Trump’s announcement of Barrett for the seat held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is launching a high-stakes, fast-track election season fight over confirmation of a conservative judge who is expected to shift the court rightward as it reviews health care, abortion access and other hot-button issues.

“I think it’s going to be really thrilling,” Trump said during a post-announcement interview with Fox News Channel that aired Sunday. “I hope it goes smoothly. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t,” Trump said.

But Biden appealed directly to his former colleagues in the Republican-held Senate to “take a step back from the brink.”

Biden urged Senate Republicans not to fan a controversy during an already tumultuous election year for a country reeling from the coronavirus crisis, a struggling economy and protests over racial injustice. If Trump wins the election, his nominee should have a vote, Biden said, but if he wins the presidency, he should choose the next justice.

“This is time to de-escalate,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware.

No justice has ever been confirmed to the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election with early voting already underway in some states. Republicans believe the fight ahead will boost voter enthusiasm for Trump and Senate Republicans at serious risk of losing their majority. Democrats warn Barrett’s confirmation would almost certainly undo Americans’ health care protections as the high court takes up a case against the Affordable Care Act in the fall.

According to a national poll by The New York Times and Siena College that was released Sunday, a clear majority — 56% — of voters believes the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should fill Ginsburg’s seat, versus 41% who said Trump should as the current president. Biden has said he would nominate the first Black woman to the court, but he has not released the names of his potential choices.

The poll, which was conducted Sept. 22-24, had a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to say Sunday whether Barrett, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is qualified to serve. But she argued that Trump was moving quickly to fill the vacancy before the court hears a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10.

“It’s not about this justice. It’s about any justice he would appoint right now,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What I am concerned about is anyone that President Trump would have appointed was there to undo the Affordable Care Act.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will vote on Barrett’s nomination in the “weeks ahead.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham said confirmation hearings will begin Oct. 12. A vote is expected Oct. 29.

“The Senate will confirm her next month,” declared Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on CNN.

With only two of the 53 Republican senators voicing opposition to a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election, Democrats appeared outnumbered — and without recourse to block the nomination.

The president said he had considered Barrett for an opening in 2018 before he ultimately settled on Brett Kavanaugh, but he explained that she “seemed like a natural fit” after Ginsburg’s death.

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