By ELIZABETH THOMAS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Saturday morning, just hours after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, tweeted Senate Republicans have an “obligation, without delay” to act on his nominee to the Supreme Court, presumably before November’s presidential election.
“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 tweeted. “We have this obligation, without delay!”
Trump has yet to indicate whom he might pick and when, and despite his call for Senate Republicans to act “without delay,” just how quickly the process will move on the Capital Hill is still very much an open question with the election just over six weeks away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose legacy is tied to the vast number of judicial nominees he’s gotten through the Senate, has vowed that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will get a vote, but he did not say when that vote would be held.
“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday night.
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” he said, without mentioning specific timing.
Some Republicans seem to be answering Trump’s call. Sen. Thom Tillis, a longtime Trump ally who currently is in a tough reelection slog against Democrat Cal Cunningham, made it clear he’ll support a Trump nominee.
“There is a clear choice on the future of the Supreme Court between the well-qualified and conservative jurist President Trump will nominate and I will support, and the liberal activist Joe Biden will nominate and Cal Cunningham will support, who will legislate radical, left wing policies from the bench,” Tillis said in a statement.
Multiple sources familiar with the President Trump’s thinking and that of his advisers see a short list of potential nominees.
The sources describe that list, as of now, including federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa, Allison Jones Rushing and Amul Thapar, with the sources all describing Coney Barrett as the leading contender at this point.
The sources caution the process is still in its early stages and the president is expected to speak to those on the short list before making any announcement in the coming days.
Ginsburg’s death certainly sets the stage for a titanic political showdown that complicates an already bitter presidential election. Not even 24 hours after news broke of Ginsburg’s death, the White House and Trump campaign leaned into the new political reality by urging former Vice President Joe Biden to release his list of possible Supreme Court picks as Trump did last week.
“He needs to tell voters where he stands.”White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News Saturday morning.
“We don’t know whose on his Supreme Court list. We don’t know what kind of justices he would nominate. We know very squarely this president has been very transparent putting forward two lists as to exactly not just what his justices would look like but what their names be. This is paramount importance to the American voters,” she said.
Trump appeared to be caught off guard Friday evening when a reporter asked him about Ginsburg’s death and said that he was “saddened” to hear the news.
“She just died? Wow, I didn’t know that — I just, uh, you’re telling me now for the first time,” Trump said. ““She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m, actually saddened to hear. I am saddened to hear that.”
The sense of urgency Trump tweeted Saturday morning is in sharp contrast to how he reacted after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia four years ago while President Barack Obama was in his last year in office.
“I think that the next president should make the pick,” Trump said on CNN at the time. “We don’t have a very long distance to wait. Certainly, they could wait it out very easily. But I think the next president should make the pick. I would be not in favor of going forward.”
Trump, who brings up conservative control of the Supreme Court as a key election issue at almost all his campaign rallies, is likely to say more about the court at a campaign event Saturday evening in North Carolina.
NPR reported that just days before her death, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
ABC News’ John Santucci, Katherine Faulders, Will Steakin and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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