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Joe Biden’s Court Vacancy Plan: More Talk of Health Care and the Pandemic

  • September 20, 2020

Mr. Biden — who has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court — was not expected to move to announce his own list of possible choices before Election Day, as Mr. Trump recently did. In a statement, Mr. Biden’s campaign said the former vice president was not “going to play politics on this as Donald Trump has.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a leader of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, agreed with that approach. “It’s less about motivating people around a specific individual to be named to that court,” she said in an interview. “I think we are highly motivated about just making sure that vacancy is protected and preserved for the next president.”

“Right now,” she said of naming names, “the costs outweigh the benefits.”

The Biden campaign will have an unusually direct role in the confirmation fight through Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, who stopped by the steps of the Supreme Court on Saturday morning. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Harris will serve as an interrogator for whomever Mr. Trump nominates. She has already shined in that role in some notable confrontations with past Trump appointees, including both of his attorneys general.

Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies believe that the political environment in the country has reversed years of conventional wisdom that court fights better mobilize conservatives than progressives. Democratic strategists said Mr. McConnell’s decision in 2016 to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland; the election of Mr. Trump; and clarifying court decisions on crucial issues involving immigration, gay rights and abortion had flipped that dynamic.

“Democrats should not approach this from a defensive posture,” said Guy Cecil, the leader of one of the party’s biggest super PACs, Priorities USA, noting that internal polling showed the court as the biggest motivating issue after a defeat of Mr. Trump. “Our goals of stopping this nomination and winning the election are aligned.”

Democratic donors poured unprecedented sums of money into campaigns and causes in the hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced, donating about $80 million online in the first 24 hours.

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