US Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, opening a crucial vacancy on the high court expected to set off a pitched political battle at the peak of the presidential campaign.

A banner with an image of the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a message referring to the selection of her successor is displayed outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, US, September 19, 2020.
A banner with an image of the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a message referring to the selection of her successor is displayed outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, US, September 19, 2020. (Reuters)

President Donald Trump has said he will nominate a woman to sit on the US Supreme Court, a move that tip the court further to the right following the death of liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman," Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Saturday. "I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men."

As Trump spoke, supporters chanted: "Fill that seat."

Possible candidates

Earlier, he praised two women as possible choices for the US Supreme Court: conservatives he elevated to federal appeals courts.

Trump, with a chance to nominate a third justice to a lifetime appointment, named Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.

Ginsburg's death comes just weeks before the November 3 presidential election, offering Republicans a chance to lock in a conservative majority at the court.

Only two female justices remain on the court: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both progressives appointed by former president Barack Obama.

Any nomination would require approval in the Senate, where Trump's Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.

READ MORE: Trump says he will name Supreme Court successor 'without delay'

New president should decide

Not all Republican senators supported the move: Maine's Susan Collins on Saturday said a nomination should wait.

"In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd," Collins, facing a tough re-election race herself, said on Twitter.

Democrats are still seething over the Republican Senate's refusal in 2016 to act on Democratic President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died 10 months before that election, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then said the Senate should not act on a nominee during an election year. He has reversed that stance now.

Even if Democrats win the White House and a Senate majority in the November election, Trump and McConnell might be able to push through their choice before the new president and Congress are sworn in on January 3.

READ MORE: US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Source: AFP