Judge Amy Coney Barrett Heads to Washington

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, widely expected to be President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is traveling by plane to Washington on Saturday, a person familiar with the matter said.

Trump plans to announce her nomination at a White House ceremony at 5 p.m. ET, though he could yet change his mind, sourced told Bloomberg.

If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett, 48, would become the third justice appointed to the nine-member high court by Trump. An Indiana-based federal appeals court judge, Barrett is known to be a devout Catholic with fervent anti-abortion views – the ideological opposite of Ginsburg, who died of complications from cancer Sept. 18.

A bitter clash is expected in the Senate, where Republicans have vowed to push through a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election. White House officials have already held calls with staff from the Justice Department and the offices of the two leading Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and is scheduling meetings between Barrett and lawmakers.

The people familiar with Trump’s decision asked not to be identified because he has not announced it himself. The president declined to confirm the news as he returned to Washington on Friday from a campaign trip to Miami and Atlanta.

“You’re going to find out tomorrow” if it is Barrett, he told reporters. “It could actually be anyone on the list.”

“I haven’t said it was her, but she is outstanding,” Trump said of Barrett.

Barrett Stirs Sharp Reaction Ahead of Trump Announcement

Republicans plan to promote Barrett as a working mother of seven, teacher, and devout Catholic, rather than focusing on her conservative credentials as a judge, a person said. They believe this strategy could bait Democrats into making personal attacks that may backfire with suburban and female voters in Midwest and Rust Belt battleground states.

Trump was still privately polling Republican confidants, including Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee chairwoman, while at a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Friday evening, said people familiar with the matter.

At the roundtable he asked donors for a show of hands of who they supported. Barrett had the most backing, although Florida appeals court judge Barbara Lagoa, who’d also been under consideration, also got some votes. Trump later told reporters that he didn’t meet with Lagoa while he was in Florida Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Throughout his administration Trump has asked for opinions from those he encounters, sometimes as a way to validate his own decisions, or to flatter people by making them feel included in his deliberations.

Supreme Court Pick Seen Unlikely to Jump-Start Trump’s Campaign

The Republican plan to swiftly confirm Barrett has angered Democrats, who’ve accused Republicans of hypocrisy. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to consider Barack Obama’s nomination to fill a vacant seat in the 2016 election year, saying voters first deserved the chance to select the next president.

McConnell says his precedent should not apply when the same party controls both the Senate and White House.

There is little Democrats can do to delay a vote on Barrett, an acolyte and former clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, once the high court’s conservative standard-bearer. And her appointment, which could solidify the court’s rightward shift for a generation, will undoubtedly play a dominant role in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said the winner of the presidential contest should pick the person to fill Ginsburg’s seat. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has told colleagues that “nothing is off the table” in 2021, should Republicans push Barrett through and Democrats win control of the White House and Senate in the election.

Some Democrats are already advocating for Biden and congressional allies — if they achieve control of both the legislative and executive branches — to increase the size of the court and appoint liberal justices to dilute the current conservative majority.

Ready to Fight

Meanwhile, the White House has been preparing for the nomination fight. Officials are leaning against assigning a so-called “sherpa” for Barrett’s nomination – often a former senator who shepherds the nominee through the confirmation process, including private meetings with senators.

Having managed two successful nominations already, senior White House officials feel they’re experienced enough that a sherpa won’t be necessary, according to two people familiar with internal deliberations.

Aides believe White House Counsel Pat Cipollone can lean on Senate relationships built during Trump’s impeachment earlier this year and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is a former congressman who maintains friendships on the Hill.

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., was sherpa for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., served in the role for Brett Kavanaugh.

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