Donald Trump on Monday said he would push to install a successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the November election and plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee later this week.
The US president said in a Fox & Friends interview that he was considering a shortlist of five candidates for the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ginsburg’s death on Friday. Mr Trump has said he will select a woman.
The appointee would be Mr Trump’s third to the Supreme Court and could cement conservative control of the high court with a 6-3 majority, providing an enduring victory for Republicans even if they lose the White House this election.
“We have the right to do it, and we have plenty of time. I think the final vote should be taken frankly before the election,” Mr Trump said.
He indicated he would announce his pick on Friday or Saturday, after memorial services for Ginsburg this week.
Ginsburg’s death has kicked off a political firestorm just weeks before the presidential poll. Democrats have cried foul as Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate majority leader, has vowed a vote on Mr Trump’s nominee.
In 2016, Mr McConnell blocked a vote on Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing voters should get a say in an election year. Republicans have argued this time is different, because both the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, made a personal appeal to Republican senators on Sunday, asking them to “please follow your conscience”.
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and Mike Pence, the vice-president, can cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie. That means Mr McConnell can afford three defections and still push through Mr Trump’s nominee.
Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, said this weekend they wanted whoever won the White House in the November 3 poll to select Ginsburg’s replacement. Ms Collins is facing a tough re-election battle this year.
Mr Trump on Monday attacked the senators, saying they were both “very badly hurt” by their statements.
The leading candidates for the nomination include Amy Coney Barrett, an appeals court judge and devout Catholic who is a favourite of conservative activists, and Barbara Lagoa, also an appeals court judge and the first Hispanic to be appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.