Mourners gathered Saturday on the steps of the Supreme Court to pay their respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday night at age 87, leaving flowers and notes to honor the liberal icon.
Ginsburg's death 46 days before a presidential election is nothing less than a political earthquake in Washington, upending an already tumultuous race.
Within minutes of her passing, battle lines were forming. President Trump, who appeared to learn of her death from reporters Friday night, vowed on Saturday to put forth a nominee "without delay!"
A move sure to outrage Democrats– who are still seething over the Republican Senate's refusal to act on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland in 2016 when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate should not consider a court nominee during an election year. And yet - McConnell vowed Friday to bring Trump's nominee up for a vote.
Obama weighed in Friday, calling on Senate Republicans to abide by the standard that they set.
"A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment," Obama said in a statement posted online. "The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle."
Democratic nominee Joe Biden likewise said the victor of November's race should choose Ginsburg's replacement:
"There is no doubt - let me be clear - that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider."
Democrats alone have little chance of blocking Trump's pick, as Republicans control the Senate, which votes on a nominee.
For liberals who considered Ginsburg a heroine, the grief they have expressed over her death was tinged with fear over what happens next. Should Ginsburg be replaced by a conservative, the balance on the court would lurch further to the right with a 6 to 3 majority.
Conservative activists have for years sought to get enough votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. And the Court will soon hear a case that will decide the future of the Affordable Care Act.
As for timing, Republicans in the Senate could hustle to fill the vacancy before November 3rd, or wait to do it in a lame duck session -- voting on Trump's nominee even if they have lost control of the White House and the Senate.