WASHINGTON - The push for quick action on a successor for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gathered steam Saturday, as President Donald Trump said he expected to announce his choice next week and that it would be a woman.
Early Saturday, Trump on Twitter called on the Senate to act "without delay."
"We want to respect the process. I think it's going to go very quickly, actually," he said to reporters just one day after the 87-year-old justice died from complications of pancreatic cancer. "I think we'll have a very popular choice, whoever that may be."
Trump said he had a "short list" of contenders. He did not name names, but a leading candidate to replace Ginsburg is U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and a longtime law professor at the University of Notre Dame.
Trump was moving to nominate a woman to the court at a time when his 2020 reelection bid is faring especially poorly among female voters. At one point in a campaign rally in the battleground state of North Carolina on Saturday, he asked the crowd whether they wanted him to nominate a man or woman.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has helped expand the gender gap in his favor by choosing Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. Biden has promised to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg's death leaves just two women on the Court - Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The first and only other woman to serve on the court was Sandra Day O'Connor, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and retired in 2006.
Trump's push for quick action on a nominee is politically risky for some in his own party. In a sign of the complicated politics of the Supreme Court debate, Republicans have begun to split over whether to back the president's push for quick action.
Trump won an important ally when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings on the nomination, said Saturday that he would support "any effort to move forward" on a nomination.
That statement by Graham - who is in his own tough reelection fight - was a reversal of the senator's own position in 2016, when Republican leaders refused to hold hearings on President Barack Obama's nominee. Graham said then that he opposed any effort to fill a court vacancy during a presidential election year. And in October 2018, he said, "If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term and the primary process has started, we'll wait till the next election."