WASHINGTON — President Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court on Saturday, presenting her as a champion of conservative judicial principles and igniting a partisan and ideological battle to confirm her before the election in just 38 days.
During an early evening ceremony in the Rose Garden with Judge Barrett at his side and her husband and seven children in the audience, Mr. Trump said she would make decisions “based on the text of the Constitution as written” much as her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, the icon of legal conservatives for whom she once clerked, had done.
“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Mr. Trump said, making his third Supreme Court nomination in his nearly four years in office. At stake in her nomination is the future of gun rights, religious liberty and public safety, he added, as he pressed for historically rapid action by the Senate. “This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation,” he said.
In her own remarks, Judge Barrett directly aligned herself with Justice Scalia, who died in 2016 and whose widow, Maureen Scalia, was in the audience. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too — a judge must apply the law as written,” Judge Barrett said. “Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
The president and Judge Barrett herself emphasized her role as a mother in an effort to humanize her in anticipation of attacks on her philosophy and her religious convictions. Mr. Trump noted that she would be “the first mother of school-aged children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” and Judge Barrett called herself “a room parent, car pool driver and birthday party planner” who adopted two children from Haiti and, like so many in recent months, has had to learn the vicissitudes of online education.
She also sought to address “my fellow Americans” who might be concerned about her views, vowing to faithfully discharge her duties without personal bias. “If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle, and certainly not for my own sake,” she said. “I would assume this role to serve you.”
Democrats wasted no time on Saturday announcing their opposition to Judge Barrett. Responding to the president’s assertion earlier in the week that he wanted his choice on the court before the Nov. 3 election to rule on any challenges he might bring to the outcome, they took aim at both her judicial philosophy and the rushed process to force her confirmation.
“Justice Ginsburg must be turning over in her grave up in heaven, to see that the person they chose seems to be intent on undoing all the things that Ginsburg did,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. In a separate statement, he said that making the nomination so close to the election was a “reprehensible power grab” that was “a cynical attack on the legitimacy of the court.”
In choosing Judge Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president opted for the candidate most likely to thrill his conservative base and outrage his liberal opponents, drawing sharp lines on some of the most divisive disputes in American life like abortion, religion, guns and health care at a time when voters have already begun to cast ballots in the contest for the White House.
Never in American history has a Supreme Court confirmation fight played out to a conclusion so close to a presidential election, and the confluence of the debate in the halls of the Senate with the debate on the campaign trail injected further uncertainty into the fall. Mr. Trump hopes to galvanize conservatives and change the subject from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 203,000 Americans while his adversaries seek to rally liberals over the prospect of the Supreme Court’s turning further to the right.
Judge Barrett’s nomination could arguably be the most consequential since President George Bush appointed Judge Clarence Thomas to succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1991, replacing the court’s most liberal member at the time with a jurist who would prove to be its most conservative. Judge Barrett, who was seen as the most committed conservative on Mr. Trump’s list of finalists, would similarly take the seat of a liberal justice in a sharp philosophical shift.
Judge Barrett, 48, would be the youngest member of the current court and could serve for decades, underscoring the stakes. Mr. Trump has long believed that one reason he won in 2016 was conservative eagerness to fill the seat that had been held open after Justice Scalia’s death that February by Senate Republicans who refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee in an election year.
Educated at Notre Dame Law School, Judge Barrett served on its faculty for years before Mr. Trump appointed her in 2017 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. During her confirmation hearings to that post, Democrats questioned her public statements and the influence of Catholicism on her work, making her a hero to religious conservatives who denounced what they called unfair attacks on her faith. Judge Barrett belongs to People of Praise, a small and relatively obscure Christian group that has adopted Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy and divine healing.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Mr. Trump urged lawmakers and the news media to “refrain from personal or partisan attacks” against Judge Barrett, making no mention of his history of personal and partisan attacks on his own adversaries. But liberals pointed to Judge Barrett’s writings to say they feared she would undo Roe v. Wade and rulings on gay rights, health care and other issues.
If confirmed, Judge Barrett “would work to dismantle all that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her extraordinary career,” said Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which promotes rights for L.G.B.T.Q. Americans. “An appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January.”
Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, an anti-abortion group, called Judge Barrett’s selection “exciting news” for conservatives. “We have confidence that she will fairly apply the law and Constitution as written, which includes protecting the most vulnerable in our nation: our unborn children,” she said.
To confirm her by the election as the president wants would require a five-week sprint through a process that since 1975 has typically taken twice as long, all at the same time many senators want to be in their home states to campaign. No seriously contested Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed so quickly since 1949. Most Americans believe that the winner of the Nov. 3 election should fill the seat, and not Mr. Trump beforehand, according to polls.
Republicans on Saturday quickly rallied around Judge Barrett. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said that Mr. Trump “could not have made a better decision.” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called her an “outstanding” selection.
Mr. Graham, whose committee will consider the nomination, has circulated a schedule to Republicans allowing significantly less time than usual for lawmakers to meet with and vet Judge Barrett than with other recent nominees, cutting to about two weeks a stage that has typically lasted six.
Mr. Graham’s schedule envisions four consecutive days of confirmation hearings beginning Oct. 12 and a committee vote on Oct. 22. Senate Republicans were aiming for a confirmation vote by the full Senate in the final days of October, although Mr. McConnell has kept his cards close to his vest rather than fully commit to a pre-election vote.
Republicans argued that the truncated timeline was appropriate given that Judge Barrett was vetted by the Senate as recently as 2017 for her current post. Republicans expect to lose two of their more moderate members, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but the defections are unlikely to go any further.
With little chance of stopping Judge Barrett’s confirmation, Senate Democrats hoped to stir public outrage over what they called an election-season power grab by Republicans. For now, the fight appeared to have unified Senate Democrats in opposition — no small feat given the handful of moderates in their ranks. And Democrats have made it clear in recent days that they intend to hammer away at Judge Barrett’s views on abortion and the Affordable Care Act.
“You’ll find there will be a wall of opposition, pretty unyielding, based on the rush to confirm a justice before the inaugural, denying the American people any voice in choosing the next justice,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. Mr. Blumenthal and other Democratic senators plan to refuse to meet with Judge Barrett, arguing doing so would give the process legitimacy it does not deserve.
Even Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate and the only Democrat to vote for Mr. Trump’s two previous Supreme Court nominees, said he would oppose Judge Barrett if the Senate voted before Election Day, warning that rushing through her confirmation would “only fan the flames of division at a time when our country is deeply divided.”
Judge Barrett addressed those divisions in her remarks on Saturday, making a point of paying tribute to Justice Ginsburg. “She not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them,” Judge Barrett said. “For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country, and indeed, all over the world.” She went on to recall Justice Ginsburg’s unlikely and across-the-lines friendship with Justice Scalia as an example of civility in public discourse.
Republicans sought to frame Judge Barrett as a fitting heir to Justice Ginsburg despite their stark ideological divergence, even branding her based on her three initials, “A.C.B.,” a clear echo of “R.B.G.” Representative Doug Collins of Georgia posted online an image of Judge Barrett under the title “Notorious A.C.B.,” mirroring Justice Ginsburg’s nickname, the Notorious R.G.B., although he wrote that “ACB is a BIG upgrade from RBG.”
Judge Barrett was Mr. Trump’s front-runner for the next Supreme Court vacancy even before Justice Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18. When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court was endangered in 2018 over allegations of sexual misconduct, Judge Barrett quietly became the top contender to take his place if his confirmation failed.
That summer, she underwent an initial round of vetting that included an F.B.I. background check, and lawyers working on her potential nomination did a substantive vetting of all of her legal opinions, law review articles and other writings and public remarks to get a full sense for her judicial philosophy.
At that time, federal prosecutors were also asked to find religious liberty legal arguments that could help blunt criticisms that Judge Barrett’s deeply held Catholic beliefs could improperly affect her ability to serve as a justice, according to a prosecutor who contributed to that work. Officials expect that legwork to help streamline her nomination process this time.
Judge Barrett is highly regarded by Vice President Mike Pence, who, like her, is from Indiana, and whose chief of staff, Marc Short, could play an important role in her confirmation process. The battle will be led by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and no sherpa with deeper ties to the Senate has been named.
Katie Benner contributed reporting from Washington, Maggie Haberman from New York and Rebecca Ruiz from South Bend, Ind.