Donald Trump has narrowed his list of possible Supreme Court nominees to five “young” candidates, saying he intends to announce a pick who he says will “abide by the Constitution” on Friday or Saturday after all services for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have concluded.
The president told Fox News he wants a final vote in the Senate on his coming nominee before Election Day, saying he thinks there is time before then for the upper chamber to vet the pick and hold confirmation hearings.
Mr Trump did not mention any candidate by name, but said his list is down to “five, probably four” candidates. He made clear he intends to pick someone who can serve on the court as a conservative voice for decades.
“They’re pretty young for the most part,” he said of those on his shortlist. “You like to go young because they’re there for a long time.”
Supreme Court seats are lifetime appointments, making the stakes of the coming fight massive as Republicans look to lock in a 6-3 conservative bend and target everything from abortion rights to the 2011 Affordable Care Act.
Democrats are crying foul because Senate Republicans in 2016 blocked then-President Barack Obama’s final high court pick, Merrick Garland, arguing a vacancy should not be filled in an election year. GOP senators on Sunday said things are different now, because voters handed their party the White House and Senate in 2016, expanding the GOP majority in the chamber two years later.
“Hopefully it wont be too much work because these are qualified people.,” Mr Trump told “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning, saying his shortlist is composed of the “smartest young people” and saying he is looking for someone who “really understands the law and abides by the Constitution.”
After teenage sexual assault allegations against his last pick, now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Mr Trump said his team is looking for someone with “high moral values,” appearing eager to avoid another nasty Senate fight.
On the timing of his announcement, the president said he wants to wait until all services for Ms Ginsburg have been held out of “all due respect” for a justice he called “a legend,” while reminding his Fox-watching core of conservative loyalists he rarely agreed with her decisions or liberal worldview.
Mr Trump has a campaign rally scheduled on Saturday evening, but no campaign stop on Friday.
From there, he said “the work begins” to get the nominee through the Senate’s confirmation process.
But the president sent a major signal to Senate Republicans as they weigh whether or not to support a pre-Election Day vote. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska already have announced they would not support a vote before 3 November. Several others have yet to announce their stance, including Utah’s Mitt Romney, the lone Senate Republican who voted to remove Mr Trump during this year’s impeachment trial.
If Mr Trump and Mr McConnell lose two more Republican senators, the matter would move to a post-election session. Democrats are exploring ways to possibly delay the decision even longer, into next year when they might control the Senate. The president appears to realize the Senate is in play, and wants Republicans to put their foot on the gas pedal.
“We have a lot of time before [the election],” he said. “I think it should go before.”