Sep 20, 2020
Joe Biden Philadelphia Speech Transcript Sept. 20: Accuses Trump & Republicans of Abuse of Power Over SCOTUS
Joe Biden gave a speech in Philadelphia, PA on September 20 where he talked about the ongoing Supreme Court controversy after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Biden accused Trump & the Republicans of “abuse of power” and asked the Senate to wait until after the election. He also said Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn if he wins. Full transcript here.
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Joe Biden: (03:43)
Welcome to the nation’s Constitution Center. I had the great privilege of being a guest here. It’s an appropriate place to make the speech I’m about to make. I attended a mass earlier today and prayed for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family. The nation lost a heroine, an icon. They also lost a mother, a grandmother, and a matriarch. We know how hard that is, to watch a piece of your soul absorb the cruelty and the pain of the dreadful disease of cancer. I spoke to her daughter and her granddaughter last night, expressing my whole family, I mean, my whole family’s sorrow, particularly my grown granddaughters, one of whom was a student of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s daughter at Columbia. They made clear to me, daughter and granddaughter, that until the very end, Justice Ginsburg displayed the character and courage we’d expect of her. They said she held their hands and gave them strength and purpose to carry on.
Joe Biden: (05:13)
It’s been noted that she passed away on Rosh Hashanah. By tradition, a person who dies during the Jewish new year is considered a soul of great righteousness. That was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a righteous soul. It was my great honor, when I was in the Senate and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to preside over her confirmation hearings and strongly support her ascension to the Supreme Court bench. Justice Ginsburg achieved a standing few justices have or ever will. She became a presence in the lives of so many Americans and a part of our culture.
Joe Biden: (06:00)
I agree with what others have said, that she did as much to advance the constitutional rights, opportunities, and justice for women as Justice Marshall did for African Americans. Yes, there was humor and mentions of the Notorious RBG and her impressive exercise routines, but there was so much more. She was, to use an overused word, a trailblazer, a role model, a source of hope and a powerful voice for justice. She was proof, proof that courage and conviction and moral clarity can change not only the law, it can change our culture. It can change the world. And I believe in the days and months and years ahead, excuse me, she will continue to inspire millions of Americans all across this country. And together we can, and we will, continue to be a voice for justice in her name.
Joe Biden: (07:05)
Her granddaughter said yesterday and said publicly that her dying words were, “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed.” 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. There’s so much at stake, the right to healthcare, clean air, clean water, the environment, equal pay for equal work, the rights of voters, immigrants, women, workers. And right now our country faces a choice, a choice about whether we will come back from the brink.
Joe Biden: (08:01)
That’s what I would like to talk with you about for a few minutes today. Within an hour of news of her passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg will receive a vote in the Senate. Within an hour of her passing. The exact opposite of what he said when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia in 2016. At that time, Majority Leader McConnell made up a rule based on the fiction that I somehow believe there should be no nomination to the court in an election year. That’s ridiculous. The only rule I’ve ever followed relating to the Supreme Court nomination was the Constitution’s obligation for senators to provide their advice and their consent to a president’s judicial nominee.
Joe Biden: (09:02)
But he created a new rule, the McConnell rule. Absolutely no hearing, no vote for a nominee in an election year, period, no caveats, and many Republican senators agreed with him, including then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, including the current Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who at the time said, and I quote verbatim, here’s what he said. “I want you to use my words against me if there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term. You can say, Lindsey Graham said, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make the nomination.” Continuing to quote, “And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right.” End of quote. That’s what Republicans said when Justice Scalia passed away about nine months before election day that year.
Joe Biden: (10:18)
Now, having lost Justice Ginsburg less than seven weeks before the election this year, after Americans have already begun to cast their vote. It’s estimated that up to 40% of Americans will have voted by October 1st, but at least 30%. Tens of millions. And you can’t unring the bell. Having made this their standard when it served their interests, they cannot just four years later change course when it doesn’t serve their ends. Look, I’m not being naive. I’m not speaking to President Trump, who will do whatever he wants. I’m not speaking to Mitch McConnell, who will do what he wants, and he does. I’m speaking to those Republicans out there, Senate Republicans, who know deep down what is right for the country and consistent with the Constitution, as I stand here in the Constitution Center, not just what’s best for their party.
Joe Biden: (11:30)
I’m speaking for millions of Americans out there who already have voted and continue to vote, and we’ll have many more voted by the time this process is finished. Millions of Americans who are voting because they know their healthcare hangs in the balance. In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court, trying to strip healthcare coverage away from tens of millions of families. This took away the peace of mind of more than 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions. If he succeeds, insurers could once again discriminate or drop coverage completely for people living with preexisting conditions, like asthma, diabetes, cancer, and so many other problems.
Joe Biden: (12:28)
And perhaps most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, the complications from COVID-19, which are well beyond what they should be, it’s estimated that 200 million people have died probably by the time I finish this talk, the complications of COVID-19, like lung scarring and heart damage, could become the next deniable preexisting condition for over six million Americans who’ve already contracted the disease.
Joe Biden: (13:09)
Millions of Americans are also voting because they don’t want nearly half a century of legal precedent to be overturned and lose the right to choose. Millions of Americans who are at risk of losing their right to vote. Millions of Dreamers who are at risk of being expelled from the only country they have ever known. Millions of workers. Union workers who are at risk of losing their right to collectively bargain. Millions of Americans who are demanding that their voices be heard, that equal justice be a guarantee for all, not just some. They know, we all know, what should happen now. The voters of this country should be heard. As I said, voting has already begun. By the time we get to the middle of October, there will be millions and millions and millions who have already voted. In just a few weeks, all votes in this nation will be heard. They’re the ones who the Constitution envisions should decide who has the power to make this appointment.
Joe Biden: (14:27)
This appointment isn’t about the past. It’s about the future, and the people of this nation, and the people of this nation are choosing their future right now, as they vote. To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power, and I don’t believe that the people of this nation will stand for it. President Trump has already made it clear, this is about power, pure and simple power. Whether the voters should make it clear on this issue and so many others, the power in this nation resides with them, the American people, the voters, and even if President Trump wants to put forward a name now, the Senate should not act until after the American people select their next president, their next Congress, their next Senate. If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh the nominee he chooses fairly.
Joe Biden: (15:39)
But if I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn, and as a new president I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor, a nominee who should get a fair hearing in the Senate before a confirmation hearing, before a confirmation vote, I should say, after a confirmation hearing.
Joe Biden: (16:05)
We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Like I said, as I speak, we’re probably passing 200,000 deaths lost to this virus. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed. Healthcare in this country hangs in the balance before the court. And now, in a raw political move, this president and the Republican leader have decided to jam a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court through the United States Senate. That’s the last thing we need at this moment. As I said, voters have already begun casting their votes in the millions. And in just a few weeks, we’re going to know who the voters of this nation have chosen as the next president. The United States Constitution was designed to give voters one chance, one chance to have their voice heard in who serves on the court. And by the way, there’s no court session between now and the end of this election.
Joe Biden: (17:12)
That moment is now for the voters to get a chance to be heard, and their voice should be heard. And I believe voters are going to make it clear. They’ll not stand for this abuse of power, this constitutional abuse. There’s no discussion about what happens if the Senate confirms on the eve of election or in a lame duck after Donald Trump loses. A successor to Justice Ginsburg, what happens? But that discussion assumes that we lose this effort to prevent the grave wrong that Trump and McConnell are pursuing here. I’m not going to assume failure at this point. I believe the voices of the American people should be heard and will be heard. This vote, this fight, this nomination will not be over until the Senate votes, if it does vote. Winning that vote, if it happens, is everything. Action and reaction, anger and more anger, sorrow and frustration at the way things are in this country now politically, that’s the cycle that Republican senators will continue to perpetuate if they go down this dangerous path that they put us on.
Joe Biden: (18:37)
We need to deescalate, not escalate. That’s why I appeal to those few Senate Republicans, the handful who really will decide what happens. Please, follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can’t keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, ignoring our cherished system of checks and balances. That includes this whole business of releasing a list of potential nominees that I would put forward. They’re now saying, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, they said, “Biden should release his list.” It’s no wonder the Trump campaign asked that I release the list only after she passed away. It’s a game for them. It’s a play to [inaudible 00:19:44] up emotions and anger.
Joe Biden: (19:46)
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 a list like that could influence that person’s decision making as a judge, and that would be wrong, or at least create the perception that it would have influence. Second, anyone put on a list like that under these circumstances will be subject to unrelenting political attacks. Because any nominee I would select would not get a hearing until 2021 at the earliest, she would endure those attacks for months on end, without being able to defend herself. Thirdly, and finally, perhaps most importantly, if I win, I’ll make my choice for the Supreme Court not based on a partisan election campaign, but on what prior presidents have done, Republican and Democrats, and I’ve served with many of them.
Joe Biden: (20:49)
Only after consulting Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate and seeking their advice and asking for the consent, it says, “Advice and consent of the Senate,” the president is the person who gets to name someone, propose. The Senate deposes. As everyone knows, I made it clear that my first choice for the Supreme Court will make history as the first African American woman justice. But I’ll consult with senators in both parties about that pick, as well as the legal and civil leaders in our country. In the end, the choice will be mine and mine alone, but I will consult. It will be the product of a process that restores our finest traditions, not the extension of one that’s torn this country apart the last years.
Joe Biden: (21:47)
So let me conclude with this. As I’ve said in this campaign, we’re in the battle for the soul of this country. We face historic crises, once in a generation pandemic, a devastating economic recession, the rise of white supremacy that the FBI directors warned us against, unseen since the sixties, and a reckoning on race that’s long overdue, a challenging climate, a changing climate that is ravaging our nation and the world as we speak. Supreme Court decisions will touch every part of these crises, every part of our lives and our future. The last thing we need is to add a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss, deeper into the darkness.
Joe Biden: (22:51)
If we go down this path, I predict it will cause irreversible damage. The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal. Enough. Enough. Enough. We must come together as a nation. Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals, conservatives, everybody. I’m not saying we have to agree on everything, but we have to reason our way through what ails us as citizens, voters, public service. That’s the guidebook called the Constitution. We have to act in good faith, in mutual goodwill, in the spirit of conciliation, not confrontation.
Joe Biden: (23:49)
This nation will continue to be inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but we should not only be inspired by her, we should be guided by her, by her willingness to listen to those with whom she disagreed, to respect other points of view. Famously, Justice Ginsburg got along well with some of the most conservative justices on the court. And she did it without compromising her principles, clouding her moral clarity, or losing her core principles. If she can do this, so can we. How we talk to one another matters, how we treat one another matters, respecting others matters. Justice Ginsburg proved it’s important to have a spine of steel, but also important to have an open hand, not a clenched fist, to those with whom we disagree.
Joe Biden: (24:54)
This nation needs to come together. I’ve said it many times in this election. We are the United States of America. There’s nothing we cannot overcome. There’s nothing we cannot do, if we do it together. Donald Trump seems to want to divide this nation between red states and blue states, between representing those states that vote for him and ignoring those who don’t. I do not. I cannot, I will not be that president. I’ll be a president for the whole country, for those who vote for me and those who vote against me. We need to rise in this moment for the sake of the country we love so dearly, indeed for its very soul. May God bless the United States of America. May God protect our troops. And may God bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Thank you so much.