President Donald Trump has decided to select Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to two sources familiar with the process.
A formal announcement is slated for Saturday at the White House.
If confirmed, Barrett, 48, a federal appeals court judge who has been reliably conservative on issues like abortion, would be the youngest justice on the high court. Her presence would also cement a conservative majority, as she replaces one of the court's most outspoken liberals.
Before joining the appeals court, Barrett worked briefly in private practice then taught for 15 years at Notre Dame law school, where she earned her law degree.
A devout Catholic, she has the backing of evangelicals who consider her a likely vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.
Although she was not on the original list of potential Supreme Court nominees released during the Trump campaign, she was added shortly after taking a place on the appeals court bench. Trump considered her to succeed Anthony Kennedy two years ago before settling on Brett Kavanaugh.
Barrett had clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The president had pledged to nominate a woman to fill the vacancy created by the death last week of Ginsburg, and in recent days has said he was considering five finalists from a broader list his campaign released earlier month. However, sources have told NBC News Trump has focused his attention on two possibilities: Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa.
Lagoa, 52, was appointed by Trump to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. A Miami native, Lagoa was the first Latina and first Cuban American to serve as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court.
Trump said he wants the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a confirmation vote for the nominee before the Nov. 3 election, but it is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will follow that timeline because some senators facing tough re-election bids could benefit from a vote after the election, sources told NBC News.
The Senate would have less than 40 days before the election to confirm Trump's nominee — a speedy schedule by recent standards, although not unprecedented.
McConnell, for his part, has vowed to hold a vote but he has not specified whether he would try to have it before the election or after during a lame-duck Senate session.
McConnell said earlier this week he'd proceed with a vote when the nominee emerges from the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The Judiciary Committee is aiming to hold hearings to advance a nominee the week of Oct. 12.
That has angered Democrats, who accused Republicans of hypocrisy, citing their decision in 2016 to not give Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama's choice for the high court vacancy created by Scalia's death, a confirmation hearing because they said it was an election year.
Top Senate Democrats have said a new justice should not be confirmed until after the next president is sworn in — but there's not much they can do to stop Trump’s nomination from moving forward.