WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump is expected to name his pick Saturday night for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, a move that could further shift the high court to the right and reshape American law on abortion, healthcare, religion and guns for a generation.
U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett has emerged as Trump's leading candidate, with multiple Republican officials saying they are confident that she would be named. A vote could likely occur before the election.
The announcement comes just eight days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had become a liberal icon in her decades on the bench, and 38 days before the presidential election. Voting has already begun in dozens of states.
Never before has a Supreme Court justice been nominated or confirmed so close to a presidential election.
If Trump succeeds in replacing Ginsburg with a conservative, the new justice will join five other Republican appointees, including two named by Trump.
Barrett, a 48-year-old former law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was a longtime law professor at the University of Notre Dame before Trump chose her for the circuit court in 2017. She was previously vetted for the vacant Supreme Court seat in 2018 that was filled instead by Brett M. Kavanaugh, causing Republicans to believe she can move quickly through the process.
Also in consideration is Barbara Lagoa, 52, a former federal prosecutor who was the first Cuban American to serve on the state Supreme Court in Florida and now sits on the 11th Circuit.
The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to waste no time in confirming Trump's pick. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged to hold a vote on the floor this year, and it is likely to occur before the Nov. 3 election.
"She will be judged on her own merits by the American people," McConnell told Fox News this week. "I'm confident he's going to make an outstanding nomination. The American people are going to take a look at this nominee and conclude, as we are likely to conclude, that she well deserves to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is expected to announce the schedule for confirmation hearings after the announcement Saturday. They are expected to begin the week of Oct. 12. Senators will begin sitting down with the nominee for private one-on-one discussions this week. And some Senate Republicans are floating holding a vote Oct. 29.