Republicans expect President Trump to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source with knowledge of the process, but the source cautioned that Trump could change his mind.
The source declined to be named, because the individual was not authorized to confirm the selection before the president announced it.
The White House declined comment.
Trump told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland that he had made a decision on whom he would nominate to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but said that “we have not made our intentions felt.”
He added that he did not meet with Judge Barbara Lagoa during his trip to Miami and Atlanta.
Barrett, who has served on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago for three years, has a clear conservative record. If confirmed, the 48-year-old would become the youngest justice on the Supreme Court and would likely serve for decades to come.
Barrett is widely admired among conservatives for her views against abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
Trump considered Barrett to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retired in 2018 but instead chose Brett Kavanaugh, reportedly saying he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat, should she die or retire during his presidency.
Trump nominated Barrett to the federal bench in 2017. As a federal judge, she has written about 100 opinions, accumulating a judicial record on issues such as guns, abortion rights and campus sexual assault that conservatives have lauded.
Before her ascent to the federal bench, Barrett taught law for 15 years at the University of Notre Dame, where she graduated from law school. She also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative legend on the court, who like Barrett does, subscribed to an “originalist” or “textualist” judicial philosophy in which constitutional questions are considered through the lens of the framers’ original intent.
Democrats have also raised concerns about how Barrett’s devout Catholic faith may influence her interpretation of legal issues such as abortion rights. Democrats raising that issue in Barrett’s confirmation hearing to the appellate bench drew hackles from Republicans; Barrett said she would not let her religion interfere with her actions as a judge.
Barrett’s stance on abortion and the landmark decision Roe v. Wade are likely to play a prominent role in her confirmation hearing to the high court. In the past, Barrett has said she could envision the court upholding the basic right to an abortion but chipping away at the precedent in a way that would give states leeway to make it harder to obtain one.
But that was before Trump’s election and before the court became majority conservative. If the Senate confirms Barrett to replace Ginsburg, conservatives will solidify their majority at 6-3 and could potentially make a more sweeping ruling on abortion or the Affordable Care Act, which has twice been preserved by the swing vote of Chief Justice John Roberts.
Democrats are framing the fight over the Supreme Court seat as primarily a battle to preserve health care, namely under the Affordable Care Act. Health care was a winning issue for Democrats during the 2018 midterms, and the party now hopes that issue can help galvanize opposition to Trump’s pick.
Trump and the Republicans want to vote on a nominee before Election Day and began promising to hold a vote without delay shortly after the court announced Ginsburg had died. Trump said this week that he wants his nominee confirmed before the election, predicting that the result may come down to a decision before the Supreme Court, as it did in 2000.
But Democrats point to the successful efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block President Barack Obama’s nomination to the court, Merrick Garland, in 2016 because the vacancy came up too close to the election. Now, Democrats, including Democratic nominee Joe Biden, say Republicans should follow the precedent they set back then and allow whoever wins the 2020 election to appoint Ginsburg’s successor.
Despite early signals from Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski that they would join Democrats in opposing a vote before the election, enough Republicans have said they would likely support a vote on Trump’s selection, paving the way for the president to put a third justice on the court after just four years in office.