Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris warned against Republican efforts to advance Donald Trump’s third nominee to the US Supreme Court, which could deliver blows to abortion rights and endanger healthcare for millions of Americans.
Her remarks from North Carolina on Monday follow the president’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the nation’s high court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Republican leadership seeks to confirm her appointment in the days leading up to Election Day with a “determination to appoint a justice who will undo her life’s work,” she said.
Joe Biden’s running mate said the late liberal justice “combined a steel spine with the ability to extend an open hand, never a closed fist.”
“She demonstrated you could both hold firm to you principles and still hear those with whom you disagree,” she added. “This president and his party are not interested in hearing any of the lessons from Justice Ginsburg.”
Republican leadership chose to “ignore her final wish" to move forward with appointing her successor until after the results of the presidential election, “a wish, by the way, shared with the American people,” Ms Harris said.
“It’s not complicated – the voters would simply like to have an oppprtunity to vote for their president before the senate votes on a nominee,” she said. “That’s not too much to ask … We’re not event debating whether the senate should hold hearings the middle of an election year. We’re not in the middle of an election year. We’re in the middle of an election. Almost 1 million Americans have already voted, and more will more this week, and next week.”
She echoed the former vice president’s argument following the death of Justice Ginsburg that the future of the Affordable Care Act – which the president is seeking to dismantle at the Supreme Court – could be jeopardised with a conservative majority.
Judge Barrett has previously criticised Justice John Roberts’ 2012 decision to uphold the individual mandate aspect of the law, which required Americans to be insured to prevent companies from raising rates. The president’s administration eliminated the attached tax penalty in 2017.
Following failed attempts by the White House and Republicans in Congress to overturn the ACA, Mr Biden said the president’s latest Supreme Court manoeuvre exploits a “loophole” that allows him to finally do so.
The court is expected to hear opening arguments in a case challenging the ACA in November.
That decision could “take us backward to a time when you could charge a woman more for her healthcare just because she’s a woman" and allow insurers to consider pregnancy a preexisting condition or deny coverage for birth control, Ms Harris said.
Overturning the ACA, the signature health law signed by former president Barack Obama, could result in the loss of health coverage for millions of Americans.
"This relentless obsession with overturning the Affordable Care Act is driven entirely by a blind rage toward President Obama” she said. “It’s happening at a moment when our country is suffering through the ravages of a pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in our country.”
Ms Harris also warned that Judge Barrett’s appointment could threaten abortion rights, as the president, the GOP and his nominee have “made clear that they want to over turn Roe v Wade and restrict reproductive rights and freedoms."
“Judge Barrett has a long record of opposing abortion and reproductive rights,” she said. “There is no other issue that so disrespects and dishonours the work of Justice Ginsburg’s life than undoing the seminal decision in the court’s history that made it clear a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body.”
She also argued Judge Barrett’s decisive conservative role on the court could also impact the future of voting rights, following a 2013 ruling that gutted the key parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The president is facing intense scrutiny for routine threats to vote-by-mail efforts and attempts to undermine the results of the election, refusing to say whether he will accept the outcome and making unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
“Donald Trump is weak,” she said. "So he is throwing up every roadblock he can to suppress the vote. We the people cannot let him get away with it."
The senator is on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold confirmation hearings beginning on 12 October, less than four weeks before Election Day.
“They want you to feel tired, they want you to feel like your fight doesn’t matter, but we will not give up,” she said. “We can’t let the infection that Trump has injected into the presidency and Congress, which has paralysed our politics and pitted Americans against each other, spread to the Supreme Court."