US President Donald Trump has said he wants a new Supreme Court judge to be sworn in “without delay”, following the death of the long serving liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Ginsburg, 87, died on Friday, just six weeks before the presidential election.
Trump’s Democrat rival, Joe Biden, insists the decision on her replacement must wait until after the vote. The ideological balance of the nine-member court is crucial to its rulings on the most important issues in US law.
“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. We have this obligation, without delay!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday, the BBC reported.
In 2016, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic President Barack Obama’s pick for the US top court. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell justified the move on grounds that it was an election year.
But on Friday, Senator McConnell said he intended to act on any nomination Trump made.
Ginsburg, a liberal icon and feminist standard-bearer, died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington DC, surrounded by her family. She was only the second-ever woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Supporters gathered outside the court on Friday night to pay tribute to the woman who had become affectionately known as “The Notorious RBG”.
The appointment of judges in the US is a political question which means the president gets to choose who is put forward. The Senate then votes to confirm – or reject – the choice.
Ginsburg, who served for 27 years, was one of only four liberals on the nine-seat bench. Her death means that, should the Republicans get the vote through, the balance of power would shift decisively towards the conservatives.