WASHINGTON — With President Trump’s nominee in place, Senate Republicans on Sunday began a furious 37-day sprint to install Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the Supreme Court before Election Day, laying the groundwork for an extraordinarily swift and politically fraught confirmation battle.
Their confidence mounting that they could hold together their narrow majority to muscle through Judge Barrett’s nomination over the objections of outraged Democrats, Republicans were plotting one of the fastest confirmation processes in recent decades. It could play out in a little more than half the average time it has typically taken to move a nominee onto the court.
White House officials were already arranging for Judge Barrett to begin making the rounds on Capitol Hill in the coming days, and Republicans planned to hold four days of nationally televised public hearings the week of Oct. 12, aiming for a vote on the Senate floor by late October, just days before the election.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, had not yet publicly committed to a pre-election vote, out of concern that with such a compressed timeline and slim voting majority, any contingency could make it impossible. But with the possibility of a 6-to-3 conservative majority in reach — which could reshape abortion rights, immigration law and much more — Republicans were quickly uniting with near monolithic support.
Their ambitious timetable began in earnest on Saturday when Mr. Trump presented Judge Barrett, a favorite of conservative anti-abortion activists, as his choice to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died this month at 87. In 244 years, no justice has ever been confirmed so close to an election, and in this case, voters in some states are already casting ballots.
Republicans heaped praise on Judge Barrett, who serves on a federal appeals court in Chicago, comparing her, somewhat incongruently, both to Justice Ginsburg, a pioneering advocate of women’s rights, and Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative legal icon for whom Judge Barrett once clerked.
“We have been really clear as Republicans throughout that we think the biggest impact a president can have long term, over many, many decades is who they put on the Supreme Court and other federal courts,” Senator John Barasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said in an interview.
In moving so quickly, Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans were taking on significant political risk at a time they are already lagging behind their Democratic challengers. Polling shows voters overwhelmingly believe the winner of the presidential election should fill the seat, and Judge Barrett’s near-uniform support for conservative positions, many of them unpopular, will stoke heated debates over abortion rights, health care and gay rights that could alienate swing voters, even as it rallies the Republican base.
Democrats, resigned to their inability to stop Judge Barrett, focused instead on extracting the maximum political benefit from the fight over her confirmation, zeroing in on the nominee’s dim view of the Affordable Care Act in an effort they believe could win them control of the Senate and the White House.
“A vote for Amy Coney Barrett is a dagger aimed at the heart of the health care protections Americans so desperately need and want,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, told reporters in his home state Saturday night.
Both sides will have plenty of help amplifying their messages from outside groups, with the conservative Judiciary Crisis Network and the liberal Demand Justice pledging tens of millions of dollars in spending on television ads in politically competitive states across the country.
If the political impact of the hearings remained uncertain, though, few in either party doubted the ultimate outcome in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority.
Ms. Collins, who is fighting to maintain her seat against a Democratic upsurge motivated in part by her support for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation, has said that out of fairness, she will not vote for any nominee before the election.
Ms. Murkowski said on Saturday that she would meet with Judge Barrett, but still believed the next president should fill the seat. If she opposes Judge Barrett, it could just as likely come as a result of Ms. Murkowski’s support for abortion rights.
Mindful of their own political risks, Republicans tried to set political traps for Democrats, predicting that they would seek to vilify Judge Barrett, a mother of seven whose orthodox Catholic faith shapes her life, as they did with Justice Kavanaugh in 2018.
“The nominee will be challenged, and that is appropriate to challenge the nominee,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Saturday night on Fox News. “But if they treat Judge Barrett like they did Justice Kavanaugh, it will blow up in their face big time.”
Specifically, Republicans want to recreate a 2017 Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Barrett’s nomination to the appeals court, when Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat, told Judge Barrett that, “the dogma lives loudly within you,” and raised concerns about her impartiality as a judge given her staunch Catholic faith. Conservatives charged that Democrats were attacking religion and had the phrase emblazoned on T-shirts.
“There is a long history of anti-Catholic hatred by some in this country, and a growing tide of anti-religious animus on the left now, and I hope you and your colleagues will not play any further part in it,” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican member of the committee, wrote on Saturday in a letter to Mr. Schumer.
Democrats see little upside in dwelling on Judge Barrett’s personal views or her fervent religious belief, even though many of them consider her opinions to be extreme and fear they would influence her decisions on the bench.
“My challenge to her is not going to be personal,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “It is about breaking the norms in this sham, rushed, illegitimate process, and about her advocacy of breaking with established precedent and views that are extreme right wing.”
Mr. Schumer appeared to have the unified support of his caucus so far in opposing Judge Barrett’s nomination. But progressive activists are demanding a more aggressive strategy around the confirmation process itself, pressuring him to exploit Senate procedure to try to detain Republicans fighting for re-election in Washington for much of October, when they hoped to be in their home states, and discredit the proceedings to the public.
In a memo circulating on Capitol Hill, liberal strategists suggested that Democrats use parliamentary tactics to essentially grind the daily business of the Senate to a halt, forcing repeated roll call votes that would require Republicans to attend in person. They also suggested Democrats could make special, privileged motions that require Republicans to give up some control of the chamber’s proceedings, and even considering impeaching someone in the House so that the Senate must hold a trial.
“Mere capitulation to what Washington insiders see as the inevitable will be viewed by many as abandonment of the Democratic base and could undermine enthusiasm,” they wrote.