WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Saturday urged the Republican-run Senate to consider "without delay" his upcoming nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election.
The White House was making preparations to select a nominee 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 whomever Trump nominated. Democrats said Republicans should follow the precedent they set in 2016 by not considering 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!"
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the Nov. 3 election. "Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider," Biden said.
The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — is sure to significantly affect the stretch run of the presidential race, further stirring passions in a nation already reeling from the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.
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 the chamber.
As the nation learned of Ginsburg's death, Trump was unaware, speaking for more than an hour and a half at a Minnesota rally without mentioning it. He huddled with aides after stepping off stage but acted surprised when he spoke with reporters moments later, saying he did not know she had died.
The president told reporters that Ginsburg was "an amazing woman who led an amazing life."
But Trump had noted in his rally speech that the next presidential term could offer him as many as four appointments to the nine-member court, whose members are confirmed for life. "This is going to be the most important election in the history of our country and we have to get it right," he added.
Typically it takes several months to vet and hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, and time is short ahead of the election. Key senators may be reluctant to cast votes so close to the election. With a slim GOP majority, 53 seats in the 100-member chamber, Trump's choice could afford to lose only a few.
Trump last week added 20 names to his list of candidates he's pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill. He contrasted his list with unnamed "radical justices" he claimed Biden would nominate who would "fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress."
Trump released a similar list in 2016 in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative credentials. Among those on his current list: Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, former Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, long a favorite of conservatives.