WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump officially named Justice Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee in a White House event Saturday afternoon, setting up a contentious nomination fight in the final few weeks of the presidential election.
“Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said.
Barrett, accompanied by her husband and seven children, joined Trump in the Rose Garden for the event.
“Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me. The flag of the Untied States is still flying at half staff to mark the end of a great American life,” said Barrett, honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died eight days ago at 87.
The family of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading voice of conservative jurisprudence who Barrett clerked for in the 1990s, attended the nominating event on Saturday. Evangelist Franklin Graham, Attorney General Bill Barr, Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, among others, were also seated in the Rose Garden for the announcement.
If confirmed, Barrett, 48, would be the fifth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court and the youngest member of the current court. A devout Catholic, Barrett, who has the backing of evangelicals, would be the court’s sixth Catholic justice and would also be Trump’s third appointee, joining Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Her presence would cement a 6-3 conservative majority as she replaces Ginsburg, one of the court’s most outspoken liberals who died eight days ago at 87.
Barrett was appointed by Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Indiana in 2017 and confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 55-43. Before that, Barrett worked briefly in private practice and taught for 15 years at Notre Dame Law School, where she earned her law degree.
Republican leaders in the Senate have said they have the votes to confirm Barrett’s nomination this year, likely before Election Day. That would give Barrett less than 40 days to undergo an updated FBI background check and for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing and a committee vote — all necessary steps in the confirmation process.
Senate hearings — which typically begin months after someone is nominated — could start as soon as October 12, according to a Republican aide familiar with the matter, an aggressive timeline that would leave only days between Barrett’s nomination and the start of the confirmation process.
While the hearing schedule timing is fluid, if it holds, would all but ensure that the Supreme Court stays front and center in the remaining days of the presidential campaign as Trump continues to trail Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls and is grasping for an opportunity change the dynamics of the race in his favor.
The timeline is also likely to make abortion rights and health care key topics in the final days of the race. Democrats have warned that Barrett would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and could tip the court against the Affordable Care Act in a case challenging the law that is scheduled to begin oral arguments the week after the November election.
While some Republicans had suggested it was politically advantageous for Trump to hold off on confirming a new justice before Election Day in the hopes that a vacant seat would turn out the base, the president has made it clear he prefers for Barrett to be confirmed before Nov. 3. in case disputes over who won the White House need to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Trump said earlier in the week, speaking of the election results. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”
Democrats have fiercely criticized Republicans for taking a hypocritical approach to filling Ginsburg’s seat. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, arguing that it was too close to the election and voters should have a say.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.