Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned Republicans that rushing a vote to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the election would cause “irreversible damage”, and vowed to nominate a black woman to take her seat.
“The last thing we need is to add is a constitutional crisis that plunges us deeper into the abyss, deeper into the darkness. If we go down this path, I predict it will cause irreversible damage,” he said in a speech in Philadelphia.
"The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal. Enough. Enough. Enough," he added.
In an address at the National Constitution Centre, he paid tribute to late liberal justice, who died aged 87 on Friday.
"The nation lost a heroine, an icon. It also lost a mother, a grandmother, and a matriarch,” the former vice president said.
On her achievements Biden said: "She did as much to advance the constitutional rights, opportunities, and justice for women — as Justice Marshall did for African Americans."
“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, noting her final wish that she not be replaced until a new president is installed.
Calling out Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham for their flip flop over Supreme Court confirmations, Biden said: “Having made this their standard when it served their interest, they cannot, just four years later, change course when it doesn’t serve their ends.”
The former vice president noted that it is not that the election is close, but that it is already underway as early voting has begun.
“[This appointment] is not 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,” said Biden. “To jam this nomination through the senate is just an exercise in raw political power and I don't believe the people of this nation will stand for it."
He continued: “President Trump has already made clear this is about power. Pure and simple power. The voters should make clear on this issue … that the power in this nation resides with them, the American people. The voters.”
Biden added that if he wins the election, president Trump's nominee should be withdrawn and, as the new president, he should be the one to nominate Justice Ginsburg's successor. But he also said that if the president is reelected, Mr Trump's nomination should receive a fair hearing on the Senate floor.
He said that for voters not to have a say in who replaces Justice Ginsburg is “constitutional abuse”.
Addressing Senate Republicans, Biden implored: “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 and your conscience. Let the people speak. We can't keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, and ignoring our cherished system of checks and balances."
On his own potential pick for the court vacancy, Mr Biden said: “I have made it clear that my first choice for the [court] will make history as the first African American woman Justice,” adding that his pick will be the product of a process that restores the country’s finest traditions, and not the extension of one that has torn this country apart.
He noted that one reason he will not release a list of names of potential nominees is that “she would endure months on end without being able to defend herself”.