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WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump said he plans to announce Saturday his nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump said Tuesday on Twitter that he would make the announcement at the White House. He earlier said the choice would be one of five conservative women he is considering. He met Monday with one of the potential nominees, appellate court judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic challenger in the election six weeks away, has called for the next president - whoever wins the election - to pick the Supreme Court nominee after his inauguration in January to a new White House term.
But Republicans are looking to take advantage of their current 53-47 Senate majority to tilt the court's ideological balance further to the right - from its current 5-4 conservative edge to 6-3 - by approving Trump's third conservative nominee to the country's top court. The president earlier won Senate confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump's nominee will receive a confirmation vote before the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
"The next step will be for (Judiciary Committee) Chairman (Lindsey) Graham to lay out the way to handle this in committee. And when the nomination comes out of committee, I'll decide when and how to proceed," McConnell told reporters Tuesday about the process following Trump's announcement of a nominee.
Enough Republican senators have signaled their willingness to vote for Trump's nominee, despite congressional Democrats' criticism that a confirmation vote so close to Election Day is hypocritical.
In 2016, McConnell did not bring up then-President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for a vote, saying the American people should first have a say in the presidential election that would take place almost nine months later.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have announced they will vote against considering Trump's nomination before the election. But no other Republican senator has joined them in looking to delay consideration of a nominee until after the election.
Romney OK with pre-election confirmation
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump critic, was the latest to voice approval for moving ahead.
"I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president's nominee," Romney said in a statement Tuesday. "If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications."
Romney said the fact that the party controls both the White House and Senate makes the current fight over a court nominee different than the case four years ago.
"Historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party's nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own," he said.
His position does not mean Trump's nominee will definitely have the votes to be confirmed, but it does mean that Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Graham, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and other Republicans can push forward on Trump's choice without delay.
Democrats unable to stop process
Democrats, in the Senate minority, are largely powerless to stop consideration of Trump's eventual Supreme Court nominee and, at least so far, have tried to shame Republicans for blocking Obama's nominee during a presidential election year while looking to move swiftly on the prospective Trump selection.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday, "Leader McConnell's actions may now very well destroy the institution of the Senate. If Leader McConnell presses forward, the Republican majority will have stolen two Supreme Court seats, four years apart. Using completely contradictory rationales. This was McConnell's rule."
Aside from considering Barrett, 48, a former University of Notre Dame law professor and favorite of conservative activists for the nomination, Trump is looking at three other appellate court judges. Another reported leading choice is Barbara Lagoa, 52, the daughter of Cuban refugees who fled the island after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.
Also under consideration are appeals court judges Allison Jones Rushing and Joan Larsen, along with deputy White House counsel Kate Todd.