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President Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

This image provided by Rachel Malehorn shows Judge Amy Coney Barrett in Milwaukee, on Aug. 24, 2018. (Rachel Malehorn, rachelmalehorn.smugmug.com, via AP)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday, capping a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation and that he hopes will provide a needed boost to his reelection effort.

An ideological heir to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett would fill the seat vacated after the Sept. 18 death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in what would be the sharpest ideological swing since Clarence Thomas replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall nearly three decades ago. She would be the sixth justice on the nine-member court to be appointed by a Republican president, and the third of Trump’s first term in office.

For Trump, whose 2016 victory hinged in large part on reluctant support from conservative and white evangelicals on the promise of filling Scalia’s seat with a conservative, the latest nomination in some ways brings his first term full circle. Even before Ginsburg’s death, Trump was running on having confirmed in excess of 200 federal judges, fulfilling a generational aim of conservative legal activists.

“The biggest thing you can do is the appointment of judges, but especially the appointment of Supreme Court justices,” Trump told supporters Friday night at a campaign rally in Newport News, Virginia. “It sets the tone of the country for 40 years, 50 years. I mean, a long time.”

Trump said Friday he had made up his mind and it was “very exciting,” without giving away the name, aiming to maintain some suspense around his personal announcement. But the White House indicated to congressional Republicans and outside allies that the pick was Barrett.

Conservative groups and congressional allies are laying the groundwork for a swift confirmation process for her. They, like the president, are wasting little time moving to replace the late Justice Ginsburg, organizing multimillion-dollar ad campaigns and marshalling supporters both to confirm the pick and to boost Trump to a second term.

Senate Republicans are readying for confirmation hearings in two weeks, with a vote in the full chamber now expected before Election Day. Democrats are essentially powerless to block the votes.

The staunch conservative’s 2017 appeals court confirmation on a party-line vote included allegations that Democrats were attacking her Catholic faith. Trump allies see that as a political windfall for them should Democrats attempt to do so once again. Catholic voters in Pennsylvania, in particular, are viewed as a pivotal demographic in the swing state that Democratic nominee Joe Biden, also Catholic, is trying to recapture.

Barrett has been a judge since 2017, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But as a longtime University of Notre Dame law professor, she had already established herself as a reliable conservative in the mold of Scalia, for whom she clerked in the late 1990s.

She would be the only justice on the current court not to have received her law degree from an Ivy League school. The eight current justices all attended either Harvard or Yale.

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death, Trump made clear his intention to nominate a woman in her stead, after previously putting two men on the court and as he struggles to mitigate an erosion in support among suburban women.

Trump had said he was considering five women for Ginsburg’s seat, but Barrett was at the White House at least twice this week, including for a Monday meeting with Trump. He is not known to have met with any of the other contenders.

The announcement came before Ginsburg was buried beside her husband next week at Arlington National Cemetery. On Friday, she was the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol, and mourners flocked to the Supreme Court for two days before that to pay respects.

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