Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of social conservatives, is President Donald Trump’s pick for the new Supreme Court justice.
Speaking by her side at the White House Rose Garden, President Trump described her as a “woman of unparalleled achievement”.
If confirmed by senators, Judge Barrett will replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died last week at the age of 87.
Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination will spark a bitter confirmation fight in the Senate as November’s presidential election looms.
Announcing Judge Barrett as his nominee on September 26, President Trump described Amy Coney Barrett as a “stellar scholar and judge” with “unyielding loyalty to the constitution”.
However, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged the Senate not to “act on this vacancy until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress”.
He said: “The United States Constitution was designed to give the voters one chance to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court. That moment is now and their voice should be heard.”
If Judge Barrett is confirmed, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.
She would be the third justice appointed by the current Republican president, after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
The court’s nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance for decades
In recent years, the Supreme Court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for President Trump’s travel ban on mainly Muslim countries to be put in place, and delayed the US plan to cut carbon emissions.
After graduating from Notre Dame University Law School in Indiana, Amy Coney Barrett, 48, clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2017, she was nominated by President Trump to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Amy Coney Barrett is described as a devout Catholic who, according to a 2013 magazine article, said that “life begins at conception”. This makes her a favorite among religious conservatives keen to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
LGBT groups have criticized her membership of a conservative Catholic group, People of Praise, whose network of schools have guidelines stating a belief that sexual relations should only happen between heterosexual married couples.
Judge Barrett has ruled in favor of President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and expressed views in favor of expansive gun rights.
Conservatives hope Judge Barrett will rule against the Affordable Care Act – a health insurance scheme introduced by President Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the legislation, also known as Obamacare.
Following September 26 announcement, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned fellow senators that voting to confirm Judge Barrett could spell the end of Obamacare.
He said: “A vote by any senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans.”
On September 26, Judge Barrett said her rulings as a Supreme Court justice would be based only on the law.
“Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy view they might hold,” she added.
The White House has begun contacting Republican Senate offices to schedule meetings with the nominee, sources told CBS.
Hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel tasked with vetting nominees – are scheduled to begin on October 12, and will last three to four days, committee chairman Lindsey Graham told Fox News late on September 26.
Afterwards committee members will vote on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate. If they do, all 100 senators will vote to confirm or reject her.
Republicans hold a slim majority of 53 senators, but they already seem to have the 51 votes needed to get Judge Barrett confirmed.