WASHINGTON (AP) – President Trump could announce his choice this coming week and almost certainly before his first debate with Biden on Sept. 29, according to the officials.
Trump just last week added 20 more names to his roster of potential court nominees, and aides in recent days have focused on a short list heavy on female candidates, according to four White House aides and officials close to the process. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
Those under close consideration for the high court include three woman who are federal appeals court judges: Amy Coney Barrett, beloved among conservatives and an early favorite; Barbara Lagoa, who is Hispanic and comes from the battleground state of Florida; and Allison Jones Rushing, who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and for Neil Gorsuch, when the current Trump-appointed justice was an appeals court judge.
Beyond the idea of replacing Ginsburg with a woman, aides view the selection of a female nominee on the eve of the presidential election as a possible counterweight of sorts to Biden’s choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris would be the nation’s first female vice president.
At least one man, appeals court Judge Amul Thapar, is also under consideration. A McConnell ally from Kentucky, he has been screened by Trump’s team for past openings and he would be the first Asian-American on the high court.
McConnell, who sets the calendar in the Senate and has made judicial appointments his priority, declared unequivocally in a statement that Trump’s nominee would receive a confirmation vote. In 2016, McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee months before the election, eventually preventing a vote on Judge Merrick Garland.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York convened a conference call with Democratic senators at midday Saturday, according to a person on the private call who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke in condition of anonymity. He told senators the “number one goal” must be to communicate the stakes of the confirmation vote.
Schumer also warned that if Republicans push through the nominee, “nothing is off the table” for Senate rules changes to come, the person said.