President Donald Trump plans to name conservative federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, two sources said on Friday quoted by Reuters.
His decision, which comes a week after the liberal icon's death at age 87, sets the stage for what promises to be a bitter confirmation fight in the US Senate, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans. Trump has asked Senate Republicans to confirm his nominee ahead of the Nov 3 US election, when he seeks a second term in office and Democrats aim to seize control of the chamber.
Barrett, 48, was appointed by Trump to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and is known for her conservative religious views. Supreme Court justices are given lifetime appointments.
If confirmed by the Senate, she would become the fifth woman to serve on the high court while expanding its conservative majority to a rock-solid 6-3.
Trump plans a formal introduction at the White House on Saturday. Trump himself told reporters on Friday that he had made his decision, but declined to say who his pick was.
Barrett has been viewed as a frontrunner throughout, along with fellow federal appeals court judge Barbara Lagoa. Barrett previously served as a clerk to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. Trump said he did not meet with Lagoa during a campaign trip to Florida.
As an appellate judge, Barrett has staked out conservative legal positions on key hot-button issues in three years on the bench, showing support for expansive gun rights and a hard-line Trump immigration policy while bolstering the rights of college students accused of campus sexual assaults.
Abortion rights groups have expressed concern that on the Supreme Court Barrett could help overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Trump's nominee has what appears to be a clear path to Senate confirmation, with Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the chamber and only two senators in his party indicating opposition to moving forward with the process.
Democrats have objected to the Senate acting on Trump's nominee in light of the decision by Republicans in the chamber in 2016 to refuse to consider Democratic President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Scalia after he died during a presidential election year.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that a majority of Americans think the winner of the November election should get to nominate Ginsburg's successor.
Barrett would be his third Supreme Court appointment. Like Trump's two other conservative appointees, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, Barrett potentially could serve for decades, placing a conservative stamp on Supreme Court precedent.
The court's decisions exert vast influence on American life, and a solidly conservative court could limit abortion rights, expand religious liberty, strike down gun control laws and uphold new restrictions on voting rights.