Donald Trump
US President Donald TrumpReuters

US President Donald Trump on Saturday urged the Senate GOP to act quickly to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, posting on social media that they have an "obligation, without delay" to do so, and setting the stage for a fight prior to an already tensed election political battle.

Trump gave no indication when he might name a nominee. "We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us," Trump tweeted, "the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!"

SC Justice Ginsburg passed away

The sudden demise of 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, has thrust the Senate into uncharted political terrain, with no recent precedent for a vacancy on the high court so close to a presidential election.

Ginsburg was the de facto leader of the court's four-member liberal bloc and an icon to progressives. Her death clears the way for Trump to nominate a successor in the final days of his first term.

Trump could lock a conservative majority in place on the court for a generation. The effect on some of the most divisive issues in American life, from abortion to corporate power to race relations, would be profound.

The political calculations around replacing Ginsburg are fraught.

Trump could proceed as quickly as possible in naming a successor, aiming for a Senate confirmation vote before Election Day on November 3.

Donald Trump

In one big potential reward, Trump might gain even more electoral leverage if he held off from an instant nomination — or named his choice but allowed the Senate confirmation process to play out after Election Day.

GOP aides are skeptical that there is enough time to confirm a nominee before November 3, given that Supreme Court nominees typically take two to three months to process, according to a review of recent confirmation proceedings.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement on Friday night that Trump's nominee "will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." But he did not say when or how that would happen, and there's significant uncertainty about what comes next.

Senate Republicans, who hold the majority in the upper chamber, only need 51 votes to confirm a new justice once one is formally nominated. Currently, there are 53 GOP senators -- meaning they can only lose three Republicans. In the event of a 50-50 split, Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote.