President Donald Trump said Monday he expects to announce his pick for the Supreme Court by week’s end, before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is buried.
The move would launch a monumental Senate confirmation fight over objections from Democrats who say it’s too close to the November election.
Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are calling for a Senate vote sooner rather than later on a successor to the late Supreme Court justice, who died Friday night at age 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
“I am confident that President Trump will nominate another highly qualified candidate who will strictly uphold the Constitution,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said during the weekend. “Once the president announces a nomination, the United States Senate should begin the process that moves this to a full Senate vote.”
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., called for a Senate vote during an appearance Saturday on Fox News.
“We need to bring forward a conservative justice – someone who will be a strict constructionist, who will protect innocent life, who will bring those Second Amendment cases and make sure we’re protecting our right to bear arms in this country,” Loeffler said. “And we need to keep that process moving – regardless of it being an election year.”
So far, only two Senate Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have said they would oppose a vote on Ginsburg’s successor before Election Day, Nov. 3.
Trump said he is planning to name his pick by Friday or Saturday, ahead of the first presidential election debate. Ginsberg’s casket is to be on view mid-week on the iconic steps outside the court and later privately at the Capitol. She is to be buried next week in a private service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Democrats, led by presidential nominee Joe Biden, are saying voters should speak first, and the winner of the White House should fill the vacancy.
Trump dismissed those arguments, telling “Fox & Friends,” “I think that would be good for the Republican Party, and I think it would be good for everybody to get it over with.”
The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — has scrambled the stretch run of the presidential race for a nation already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.
Democrats point to the hypocrisy of Republicans in trying to rush through a pick so close to the election after refusing to do so for President Barack Obama in February 2016, long before that year’s election. Biden is appealing to GOP senators to delay the vote until after the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, vowing to vote “this year” on Trump’s nominee. With just over a month before the election, he said the Senate has “more than sufficient time” to handle the nomination.
Trump allowed that he would accept a vote in the lame duck period after Election Day but made clear his preference would be that it occur by Nov. 3.
Protesters are mobilizing for a wrenching confirmation fight punctuated by crucial issues before the court — healthcare, abortion access and even the potential outcome of the coming presidential election. Some showed up early Monday morning outside the homes of key GOP senators.
Trump said Monday he had list of five finalists, “probably four.” He has promised to nominate a woman, and his preference is for someone younger who could hold her seat for decades.
Conversations in the White House and McConnell’s office were increasingly focused on two finalists: Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private deliberations. Trump himself confirmed that they are among the top contenders.
Barrett as long been a favorite of conservatives, and was a strong contender for the seat that eventually went in 2018 to Brett Kavanaugh. At the time, Trump told confidants that he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.
Lagoa has been pushed by some aides who tout her political advantages of being Hispanic and hailing from the key political battleground state of Florida.
Trump admitted that politics may play a role. Late Monday, he gave a nod to another battleground state, Michigan, and White House officials confirmed he was referring to Joan Larsen, a federal appeals court judge there.
The president also indicated that Allison Jones Rushing, a 38-year-old appellate judge from North Carolina, is on his short list. His team is also actively considering Kate Todd, the White House deputy counsel who has never been a judge but was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.
Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate. If there were a 50-50 tie, it could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
There is another potential wrinkle: Because Arizona’s Senate race is a special election, that seat could be filled as early as Nov. 30. If Democrat Mark Kelly wins and is seated, that would narrow the window for McConnell.