U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday urged Republicans to confirm "without delay" a replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died the previous evening at the age of 87.
"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!" the president tweeted.
U.S. media cited presidential aides and advisers as saying that Trump was considering a woman for his latest Supreme Court nominee, who would also be the third appointee during his presidency. Assessment of possible options began on Saturday, according to reports.
Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said in a news release, adding that a private interment will be held at the Arlington National Cemetery, without revealing the specific date for the ceremony.
The second female Supreme Court justice in U.S. history and a champion for equal protection under law for women, Ginsburg was nominated to the bench by then President Bill Clinton in 1993 and over the years became the most senior liberal justice on the nation's highest court.
The decease of Ginsburg set up a fierce partisan fight on Capitol Hill over whether to confirm a nominee less than 50 days away from the presidential election.
Democratic lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as well as former President Barack Obama, all maintained that Ginsburg's replacement be nominated by the next president to be chosen by voters in the Nov. 3 election.
"The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said Friday night.
Such a position echoed Ginsburg's dying wish. "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," she said in a statement dictated to her granddaughter, Clara Spera.
On the Republican side, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked a Senate hearing of an Obama appointee shortly ahead of the 2016 election to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia who died in February that year, said Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy Ginsburg left.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is on Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees announced on Sept. 9, said Friday the president should tap a new justice "next week."
The number of justices on the bench reduced to eight following the passing of Ginsburg, among whom only three are liberals. Trump is expected to swing the bench further to the right with a new appointee.
While Republicans in the Senate changed the rules so that the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice now needs 51 votes rather than a supermajority, the slight 53-47 majority they hold in the Senate means they can only afford a maximum of three defections, a scenario where Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote will be needed to seat the new candidate.