Washington, Sep 26 (efe-epa).- US President Donald Trump confirmed Saturday that he will nominate conservative federal appellate court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death last week of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds,” Trump said before the media and around 100 invited guests in the White House Rose Garden.
“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” he said of Barrett, who was present with her husband and the couple’s seven children.
The 48-year-old New Orleans native spent 15 years as a professor at Notre Dame Law School before Trump appointed her to the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. She was confirmed then with the votes of 53 of the 100 senators, including several Democrats.
“I urge all members of the other side of the aisle to provide Judge Barrett with the respectful and dignified hearing that she deserves,” Trump said.
The Republican-controlled Senate signaled ahead of Saturday’s announcement that it plans to confirm Trump’s nominee before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Trump has already named two justices to the nation’s highest court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – and the addition of Barrett would create a reliable 6-3 conservative majority and as US federal judges are appointed for life, that edge could last for decades.
She would be the fifth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court and the third among the current members, joining Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Barrett, a devout Catholic, is opposed to abortion, while Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 at the age of 87, was a staunch defender of abortion rights.
“Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful who came before me,” Barrett said during the Rose Garden event. “The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life.”
“Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession, but she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them,” the nominee said.
“I love the United States and the United States Constitution,” Barrett said, vowing to follow the judicial philosophy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose clerk she was.
Within minutes of Trump’s announcement, his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, issued a statement calling on the Senate to leave the court seat vacant “until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.”
The focus of the statement was on the fate of the 2009 Affordable Care Act, the health plan that was the signature policy of President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president.
The Supreme Court is due in the near future to hear a suit brought by the Trump administration to overturn the ACA, including the provision that bars health insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Barrett, Biden said, “has a written track record of disagreeing with the US Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.”
“The United States Constitution was designed to give the voters one chance to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court. That moment is now and their voice should be heard. The Senate should not act on this vacancy until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress,” Biden said.
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the Republicans in refusing to even consider Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Scalia.
McConnell insisted that choosing Scalia’s replacement should be left to the winner of that year’s presidential contest pitting Trump against Hillary Clinton.
This time, however, McConnell plans to press ahead with confirmation of Trump’s nominee.