Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a stalwart liberal in the U.S. Supreme Court since 1993, died on Friday at age 87, the court said. Ginsburg’s death gives President Donald Trump a chance to expand its conservative majority with a third appointment at a time of deep divisions in America. The presidential election is just 46 days away, and the inauguration of the next president 124 days away.
Ginsburg, a champion of women’s rights, died at her home in Washington of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said in a statement. She was surrounded by her family.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her—a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Her departure could dramatically alter the ideological balance of the court, which currently has a 5-4 conservative majority, by moving it further to the right.
Earlier this year, Politico reported the GOP was prepared to fill any Supreme Court vacancy, despite denying former President Obama the ability to confirm Merrick Garland as a justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia in 2016, because Scalia died in an election year. Supreme Court justices require a simple majority to be confirmed to the high court, and Republicans control the Senate 53-45.
In the days before her death, Ginsburg said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” NPR reported.
Republicans have confirmed eight federal judges over the past week alone, and over 200 under Trump, working in haste ahead of the election with polls showing they could lose their majority in the Senate.
Trump, seeking reelection on Nov. 3, already has appointed two conservatives to lifetime posts on the court: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Supreme Court appointments require Senate confirmation, and Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber.
On Sept. 9, Trump released a shortlist of potential Supreme Court picks, including far right Sens. Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, and former White House lawyer and D.C. Circuit Judge Greg Katsas.
A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, the court said, but did not specify a date.
This article contains additional reporting by Reuters.