United States President Donald Trump has urged the Republican-controlled Senate to act “without delay” on vetting a Supreme Court justice nominee following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In a tweet on Saturday, Trump responded to statements from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said shortly after Ginsburg’s death on Friday evening that the chamber would move forward with approving the president’s as-yet-unannounced nominee.
“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us,” Trump tweeted, “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!”
The appointment is set to give conservatives a six-to-three majority in the highest court in the US and brings forward the prospect of sweeping changes on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, and other issues of American life.
.@GOP 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
The president’s statement contradicts the projections of some analysts, who said Trump could delay the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice to shore up support among his conservative base going into the election on November 3.
A barrage of high-ranking Democratic officials, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, have called for the appointment to come after the election to let voters decide at the ballot box who will make the consequential decision.
With the remaining justices relatively young, the appointment could shape the court’s ideological position for years, if not decades, and it has already set off a fierce political fight in Washington, DC.
“Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Biden said on Friday.
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 18, 2020
That was echoed by at least one Republican legislator, Maine Senator Susan Collins, who said Saturday that Trump should hold off on nominating anyone until after the presidential poll.
“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, who is facing a tough re-election race herself, said on Twitter.
Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy after they in 2016 refused to call hearings for the appointment of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s pick to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
That nomination came 237 days before that year’s election, while as of Saturday, the 2020 election is just 45 days away.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, echoing, word-for-word, a statement McConnell made in 2016.
McConnell, for his part, has said his 2016 argument does not apply to the current situation because four years ago, the Senate was controlled by an opposing party to the president.
That justification was not central to Republicans’ justification for blocking Garland’s appointment at the time.
The Senate and the nation mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/NOwYLhDxIk
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) September 19, 2020
Trump also rejected the idea that his Republican Party was being hypocritical, telling reporters Saturday evening that the party’s decision to block Garland’s appointment was “the consequence of losing an election”, according to the White House press pool.
The president said he expects to announce his nominee for the top court next week and that his choice would likely be a woman. “I think we’ll have a very popular choice, whoever that may be,” Trump told reporters.
It remains unclear if the Republican brass will be able to appoint a new justice before the election, however.
Historically, the process of vetting and holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee takes months.
Republicans have a slim majority of 53 seats in the 100-member chamber, and several incumbents face challenges in their home states. Approving a new justice amid controversy could potentially damage their prospects of re-election.
At least four Republicans would need to vote against a nominee to block the appointment, and several had made statements before Ginsburg’s death saying they would not, or be hesitant to, appoint anyone so close to the election.
To date, Trump has released over 40 names of possible Supreme Court nominees, most recently adding 20 potential picks to the original list released during his 2016 candidacy.
The list includes Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley, as well as several rising stars in the Republican Party, notably Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Trump said Saturday that he has narrowed his choices down to a short list, but did not reveal any names.
Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed source, reported that two women are included on Trump’s short list: Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appeals court judge and former clerk for Justice Scalia, and Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American federal appeals court judge and former Florida Supreme Court Justice.
Amul Thapar, a US District Court judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Allison Jones Rushing, a federal appeals court judge and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, are also at the top of the list of potential nominees, ABC News reported.