President Donald Trump has decided on his nominee to the Supreme Court after spending Monday morning working the phones primarily seeking input about two judges who were said to be the finalists, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Thomas M. Hardiman, people familiar with the discussions said. He has a degree from Yale Law School and was a clerk for Kennedy.
Liberals also took issue with the presence of Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society's executive vice president, who is now on leave from the group of conservative attorneys and scholars to work with Trump's Supreme Court nomination team.
Kavanaugh not only had ties to the Bush administration but he also served under special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the investigation into former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. "A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law", he told the assembled dignitaries, as Trump beamed.
"I'm getting very close to making a final decision", Trump said.
Trump introduced Kavanaugh as "a judge's judge" and cited his "proven commitment to equal justice under the law" in his announcement Monday night live from the East Room of the White House.
The nomination, 12 days after the retirement of Mr Kennedy, gives Republicans their best chance in decades at securing a five-member majority (out of nine) in the highest court in the United States and power to shape legal battles over guns, immigration, the environment and civil rights.
All of Trump's top candidates were considered more solidly conservative than Kennedy.
The nominee must be confirmed by the US Senate, which the Republican president's party narrowly controls 51-49. SCOTUSblog, which covers actions of the Supreme Court, said his opinions have shown an "originalist approach to the Second Amendment right to bear arms", and that he "has not weighed in directly on issues relating to abortion" - two hot-button issues.
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Trump also hopes to pressure several Democrats into voting to confirm his nominee. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. "No president has ever consulted more or widely or talked to more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination".
Hatch, who is the longest-serving member on the Judiciary Committee and has seen fifteen Senate confirmation fights for Supreme Court justices, said Barrett is an "outstanding" law professor and a "tremendous woman".
Senator John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he wouldn't make any predictions, but he did say that the confirmation fight would "take a lot of oxygen" in the Senate.
This story is breaking and will be updated. "If you were looking for somebody to pick for the Supreme Court, you'd have to say that she's an excellent choice".
Democrats have little leverage as they try to halt the nomination - though the court's rightward lurch could stoke liberal turnout in the midterm elections in which the House of Representatives is in play.
Recent developments underline the shrewdness of Trump's campaign team, which published a list of potential court nominees with stellar conservative credentials before he faced off against Hillary Clinton.
McConnell and Trump were rewarded this year with a string of 5-4 decisions in which Gorsuch cast votes favorable to the president and the GOP.
In a wider sense, his nominee will also represent a triumph for conservatism and the organized effort to promote vetted conservative judges that offered McConnell a pipeline of candidates for lower courts and now is reaching the ultimate prize - a solid Supreme Court majority.