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Trump Meets with Supreme Court Short-Lister at White House

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President Donald Trump met with possible Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday and told reporters he might meet with another candidate, Judge Barbara Lagoa, when he travels to Florida later this week.

Republicans have the votes to confirm the president’s pick before the Nov. 3 presidential election, according to the Senate Judiciary chairman who will shepherd the nomination through the chamber.

“The nominee is going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News late Monday. “We’ve got the votes to confirm the justice on the floor of the Senate before the election and that’s what’s coming.”

Trump is expected to announce his choice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg by week’s end, setting off a monumental Senate battle with Democrats, who claim it’s too close to the November election.

Conversations in the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office have been increasingly focused on Barrett and Lagoa, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

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Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber and can confirm a justice by a simple majority.

Barrett, 48, has long been favored by conservatives, and those familiar with the process said interest inside the White House seemed to be waning for Lagoa amid concerns by some that she did not have a proven record as a conservative jurist.

Lagoa has been pushed by some aides who tout her political advantages of being Hispanic and hailing from the key political battleground state of Florida.

Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, was a strong contender for the seat that eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. At the time, Trump told confidants he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.

Would you like to see Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court?

Before joining the 7th Circuit, she had made her mark in law primarily as an academic at the University of Notre Dame, where she received a law degree and later began teaching at age 30.

She clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Antonin Scalia, worked at the Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin law firm in Washington, D.C., then returned to Notre Dame.

Barrett has long expressed sympathy with originalism, a mode of interpreting the Constitution in which justices look to the original meanings of texts in deciding cases. Liberals have disdain for that approach, preferring to view the Constitution as changing with the times.

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Trump has said he would choose a woman, and he admitted that politics might play a role. He gave a nod to another election battleground state, Michigan, and White House officials confirmed he was referring to Joan Larsen, a federal appeals court judge there.

The president also indicated that Allison Jones Rushing, a 38-year-old appellate judge from North Carolina, is on his short list. His team is also actively considering Kate Todd, the White House deputy counsel who hasn’t been a judge but was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Democrats, led by presidential nominee Joe Biden, are protesting the Republicans’ constitutionally supported effort to replace Ginsburg, saying voters should speak first, on Election Day, and the winner of the White House should fill the vacancy.

Trump dismissed those arguments, telling Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Monday, “I think that would be good for the Republican Party, and I think it would be good for everybody to get it over with.”

The mounting clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — injects new turbulence into an already contentious presidential campaign.

Democrats claim Republicans are hypocrites for attempting to replace Ginsburg so close to the election after McConnell led the GOP in refusing to vote on a nominee of President Barack Obama in February 2016, long before that year’s election.

Conservatives, however, note that in the Obama case, the Senate and White House were held by different parties, which isn’t true now.

Ginsburg, 87, died Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer. She will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol this week, the first woman ever accorded that honor.

First, her casket is to be on view midweek on the steps of the high court in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions on public gatherings.

With just over a month before the election, McConnell said the Senate has “more than sufficient time” to confirm a new justice to the court. The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, was nominated on Aug. 19, 1981, and confirmed 33 days later.

Both sides are mobilizing for a wrenching confirmation fight punctuated by crucial issues before the court — health care, abortion and even the potential outcome of the coming presidential election.

Some protesters showed up early Monday morning outside the homes of key GOP senators.

At a Trump rally later Monday in Ohio, people chanted, “Fill the seat!”

The president criticized Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for opposing a vote before elections, warning that they would be “very badly hurt” by voters.

Biden has appealed to other GOP senators to join Murkowski and Collins in opposing a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election, saying, “Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have engulfed our country.”

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