President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will nominate a woman to sit on the Supreme Court, a move that would tip the court further to the right following the death of liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “I think it should be a woman.”
As Trump spoke, supporters chanted: “Fill that seat.”
He praised Ginsburg as a “legal giant … Her landmark rulings, fierce devotion to justice and her courageous battle against cancer inspire all Americans.”
Earlier, he praised two women as possible replacements: conservatives he elevated to federal appeals courts.
Trump named Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees for a lifetime appointment to the highest U.S. court. It would be his third appointment during his first term.
Trump said it was his constitutional right to appoint a successor for Ginsburg, and he would do so, citing similar moves by presidents dating back to George Washington. “We have plenty of time. You’re talking about Jan. 20,” Trump said, referring to the date of the next inauguration.
Ginsburg’s death on Friday from cancer after 27 years on the court handed Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3, the opportunity to expand its conservative majority to 6-3 at a time of a gaping political divide in America.
Any nomination would require approval by a simple majority in the Senate, where Trump’s Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.
Not all Republican senators supported the move: Maine’s Susan Collins on Saturday said a nomination should wait.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd,” Collins, facing a tough re-election race herself, said in a statement.
Democrats are still seething over the Republican Senate’s refusal in 2016 to act on Democratic President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died 10 months before that election.
At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate should not act on a nominee during an election year, but he and other top Republican senators have reversed that stance.
Even if Democrats win the White House and a Senate majority in the November election, Trump and McConnell might be able to push through their choice before the new president and Congress are sworn in on Jan. 20.
Senior congressional Democrats raised the prospect of adding more justices next year to counterbalance Trump’s nominees if they win control of the White House and Senate.
McConnell, who has made confirmation of Trump’s federal judicial nominees a priority, said the chamber would vote on any Trump nominee. Democrats, with few tools to block passage of a nominee, plan to try to rally public opposition.
“The focus needs to be showing the public what’s at stake in this fight. And what’s at stake is really people’s access to affordable healthcare, workers’ rights and women’s rights,” said Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen in a telephone interview.
Even before Ginsburg’s death, Trump had released a list of potential nominees.
Barrett has generated perhaps the most interest in conservative circles. A devout Roman Catholic, she was a legal scholar at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana before Trump appointed her to the 7th Circuit in 2017.
Lagoa has served on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for less than a year after Trump appointed her and the Senate confirmed her in an 80-15 vote. Prior to that, she spent less than a year in her previous position as the first Latina on the Florida Supreme Court, after more than a decade as a judge on an intermediate appeals court.
Trump has already appointed two justices: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.