WILMINGTON, Del. — In his first major comments since President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court Saturday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden strongly condemned the decision to move ahead with a nomination with the election currently underway.
“Never before in our nation’s history has a Supreme Court justice been nominated and installed while a presidential election is already underway,” Biden said. “It defies every precedent.”
Voters have cast nearly 950,000 ballots already in multiple states, including the crucial battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida, according to a tally by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald’s “US Elections Project.”
Biden claimed that in nominating Barrett to the nation’s highest court, “he sees a chance to fulfill his explicit mission: Steal away the vital protections of the Affordable Care Act from countless families.”
“President Trump can claim all he wants that he’s going to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” he added, “but the fact is he’s already fighting to take those protections away as we speak.”
Biden spent much of his speech talking about Trump and Senate Republicans rather than Barrett, but of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, the former VP said that she has a “written track record of disagreeing adamantly with the Supreme Court’s decisions on two occasions upholding the ACA.”
In a 2017 Notre Dame Law School article, Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ reasoning to uphold the Affordable Care Act, saing that he “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
Biden’s comments Sunday echoed his statement issued immediately following Barrett’s nomination Saturday: “President Trump has been trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act for four years. Republicans have been trying to end it for a decade. Twice, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional. But even now, in the midst of a global health pandemic, the Trump Administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the entire law, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
Democrats have zeroed in on the future of the Affordable Care Act, which is colloquially referred to as “Obamacare,” in their opposition to Barrett’s nomination.
“The American people should make no mistake — a vote by any Senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), wrote in a statement.
“With the next Supreme Court Justice set to determine the fate of protections for those with preexisting health conditions, and reproductive health options, I will continue to fight on behalf of the people and strongly oppose the president’s nomination,” Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sent an email to supporters Saturday with the subject line, “Confirming Amy Coney Barrett will be the end of the Affordable Care Act.”
Former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that “we know Trump will pick a Supreme Court nominee who will deliver the death blow to the Affordable Care Act and rip health care away from millions of people during a deadly pandemic. We know it because he’s already in Court demanding this.”
Taking questions from reporters, when asked about the consequences of pushing Barrett’s nomination through, Biden said “should see to it that the American public will vote in the Senate races in this election and they’ll vote Republicans out of office.”
“That’s the consequence,” he added. “That’s the focus. That’s why I want to make it clear and stay on message here. The clear focus is, this is about your healthcare. This is about whether or not the ACA will exist.”
He declined to answer a question about whether or not he would support court packing: “I know you’re going to be upset with my answer. But what I’m not going to do is play the Trump game – which is a good game he plays – take your eye off the issue before us. If I were to say yes or no to that, that becomes a big issue.”
As he walked off the stage, he answered one final question about what he will have to do to be successful at the first presidential debate on Tuesday: “Just tell the truth.”
All eyes will no doubt turn to Tuesday, the first time Biden and Trump will square off in a head-to-head debate, with 37 days to go until the election.