US President Donald Trump drew the ire of Democrats on Saturday by announcing that he intended to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday,"without delay."
"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," Trump said on Twitter. "We have this obligation, without delay!"
He also said he would nominate a woman next week to the highest court in the United States. He referred to judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa as "highly respected."
Ginsburg's death gives Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, a chance to expand the court's conservative majority to 6-3 at a time of a gaping political divide in America.
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Democrats are angry over the decision because of a similar situation that happened ahead of the 2016 election, when the Republican Senate blocked President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died 10 months before the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016 said the Senate should not act on a court nominee during an election year, a stance he has now reversed, on the grounds that the Republicans control both the White House and the Senate, and so have a democratic mandate.
Obama himself on Saturday called on Senate Republicans to honor what he called a principle they "invented" in 2016.
McConnell's stance means the Democrats have little chance of blocking Trump's pick — whose short-list of potential nominees includes two women jurists, Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, according to a Reuters source.
Confirmation votes could also put more pressure on incumbent Republican senators in highly competitive election races, including Maine's Susan Collins and Arizona's Martha McSally, at a time when Democrats are eying a chance to win control of that chamber.
bk/mm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)