Donald Trump has promised to put forth a female nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Taking the stage at a North Carolina rally to chants of “Fill that seat”, the president said he would nominate his selection despite Democrats’ objections.
And, after conducting what he joked was a “very scientific poll” of the Fayetteville crowd as to whether supporters wanted a man or a woman, he declared the choice would be “a very talented, very brilliant woman”.
He added that he did not yet know whom he would choose.
“We win an election and those are the consequences,” said the president, who then seemed to signal that he’d be willing to accept a vote on his nominee during the lame duck period after the election. “We have a lot of time. We have plenty of time. We’re talking about January 20th.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night, hours after Ms Ginsburg’s death, to call a vote on whomever Mr Trump nominated.
.@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the November 3 election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Mr Biden said.
Ms Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died aged 87 at her home in Washington.
A statement from the court said Ms Ginsburg died as a result of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Former president Barack Obama was among those paying tribute to Ms Ginsburg.
He said: “Over a long career on both sides of the bench – as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist – justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are – and who we can be.”
US chief justice John Roberts also mourned Ms Ginsburg’s passing, saying: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.
Statement from the President on the Passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/N2YkGVWLoF— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
“We at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Ms Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of several battles with cancer.
She spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. My statement: https://t.co/Wa6YcT5gDi— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 19, 2020
Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.
Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, the insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospital treatments after she turned 75.
She resisted calls by liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats held the senate and a replacement with similar views could have been confirmed.
Instead, Mr Trump will almost certainly try to push Ms Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled senate — and move the conservative court even more to the right.