WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday urged the Republican-run Senate to consider “without delay” his upcoming nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election.
The White House was moving quickly to select a nominee, likely before the first presidential debate 10 days away, for the seat held by Ginsburg, who spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed on Friday night, hours after Ginsburg’s death, to call a vote for Trump’s upcoming nominee. Democrats countered that Republicans should follow the precedent that GOP legislators set in 2016 by refusing to consider a Supreme Court choice in the run-up to an election.
Trump made his view clear in a tweet Saturday: “We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”
A close ally, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings on a nominee, tweeted that he backed Trump “in any effort to move forward” and fill the vacancy.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any selection should come after the Nov. 3 election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” he said.
The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — scrambles the stretch run of a presidential race for a nation already reeling from the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.
Trump scheduled a rally Saturday night in North Carolina that would offer a first look at how he works the court vacancy into his campaign pitch.
Trump just last week added 20 more names to his roster of potential court nominees, and aides in recent days have focused on a short list heavy on female candidates, according to four White House aides and officials close to the process. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
The president could announce his choice this coming week and almost certainly before his first debate with Biden on Sept. 29, according to the officials.
Those under close consideration for the high court include three woman who are federal appeals court judges: Amy Coney Barrett, beloved among conservatives and an early favorite; Barbara Lagoa, who is Hispanic and comes from the battleground state of Florida; and Allison Jones Rushing, who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and for Neil Gorsuch, when the current Trump-appointed justice was an appeals court judge.
Beyond the idea of replacing Ginsburg with a woman, aides view the selection of a female nominee on the eve of the presidential election as a possible counterweight of sorts to Biden’s choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris would be the nation’s first female vice president.
At least one man, appeals court Judge Amul Thapar, is also under consideration. He has been screened by Trump’s team for past openings and he would be the first Asian-American on the high court.
McConnell, who sets the calendar in the Senate and has made judicial appointments his priority, declared unequivocally in a statement that Trump’s nominee would receive a confirmation vote. In 2016, McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee months before the election, eventually preventing a vote on Judge Merrick Garland.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York convened a conference call with Democratic senators at midday Saturday, according to a person on the private call who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke in condition of anonymity. He told senators the “number one goal” must be to communicate the stakes of the confirmation vote.
Schumer also warned that if Republicans push through the nominee, “nothing is off the table” for Senate rules changes to come, the person said.