WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump raced on Monday to cement a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court before the Nov. 3 election, telling reporters he planned by Saturday to reveal his pick to succeed liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats' hope of keeping the seat empty faded when two Republican senators, Chuck Grassley and Cory Gardner, signaled their support for moving forward quickly.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he was zeroing in on one or two candidates among five who are under consideration. He called on the Senate, controlled by his fellow Republicans, to vote on confirmation before the election in which he is seeking a second term.
"I'd much rather have a vote before the election," he said. "We have plenty of time to do it."
Two federal appeals court judges appointed by Trump are clear front-runners: Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Barbara Lagoa of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump met with Barrett at the White House on Monday, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Ginsburg died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer at age 87.
Trump's announcement would come before Ginsburg is due to be buried privately at Arlington National Cemetery next week.
Officials have arranged for a public viewing of her body outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday and inside the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
Ginsburg's death gives Trump and his party an opportunity to establish a 6-3 conservative majority on a court whose decisions influence many spheres of American life including abortion, health care, gun rights, voting access, presidential powers and the death penalty.
With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, it would require at least four of them to break ranks to stop the nomination from going through. Two Republican senators – Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski – said over the weekend that the chamber should not move forward with a Trump nominee before the election.
Democrats had hoped to get similar support from Gardner, who faces a tough reelection race in Colorado, and Grassley. But both men said on Monday they would vote to confirm a qualified Trump pick.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who has clashed with Trump and is seen by Democrats as a potential holdout, avoided questions about the Supreme Court seat on Monday.
"Before I have any comment, I'm going to meet with my colleagues, which I'll be doing tomorrow," Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, told reporters.
Democrats have accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of hypocrisy for being eager to bring a Trump nominee to a confirmation vote. In 2016, he refused even to consider Democratic President Barack Obama's nominee to fill a vacancy on the court left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, saying it would be inappropriate to do so during an election year.