By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, will begin meeting with senators this week as Republicans push ahead with a rapid Senate confirmation process ahead of November’s presidential election over the objections of Democrats.
Barrett will meet Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) at the U.S. Capitol, Graham’s office said. She will meet with several other committee Republicans earlier in the day.
Trump on Saturday announced Barrett, 48, as his selection to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18 at age 87. Barrett, who would be the fifth woman to serve on the high court, said she would be a justice in the mold of the late staunch conservative Antonin Scalia.
Her confirmation by the Senate would result in a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.
Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate and are aiming to hold a vote before the Nov. 3 election, in accordance with Trump’s wishes.
Trump, who is running for a second term against Democrat Joe Biden, has said he wants nine justices on the court so that it will have a full complement to tackle any election-related legal issues and possibly decide the outcome in his favor.
The only time in U.S. history the Supreme Court has had to resolve a presidential election was in 2000.
Barrett’s meetings with senators are taking place ahead of a multiday confirmation hearing scheduled to begin on Oct. 12, when she will face questions about her judicial philosophy and approach to the law.
Graham told Fox News on Sunday that the panel will likely vote on the nomination on Oct. 22, setting up a final vote on the Senate floor by the end of the month.
Democrats object to Republicans pushing through the nomination so close to the election, saying that the winner of the contest should get to pick the nominee.
Trump’s nomination of Barrett is the first time since 1956 that a U.S. president has moved to fill a Supreme Court vacancy so close to an election.
Democratic opposition to Barrett has so far been focused on her possible role as a deciding vote in a case before the Supreme Court in which Trump and fellow Republicans are asking the justices to strike down the Obamacare health law known formally as the Affordable Care Act. If confirmed quickly, Barrett could be on the bench when the justices hear oral arguments on Nov. 10.
A key provision of the law that would be thrown out if the court struck it down requires insurance companies to provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Some Democrats have said they will refuse to meet with Barrett but others, including some on the committee, have said they intend to engage in the process so they can ask Barrett directly about issues such as healthcare and abortion. Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, will talk to her by phone or in a Zoom meeting, a spokesman said.
Conservative activists are hoping that a 6-3 conservative majority will move the court to the right by curbing abortion rights, expanding gun rights and upholding voting restrictions.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)