Privately, Mr. McConnell polled advisers and deputies about a complex set of political considerations with control of the Senate and presidency at stake. Some Republicans argued for announcing a nominee right away and beginning hearings but waiting to vote in a lame-duck session after the election.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Mr. McConnell’s leadership team, said confirming a new justice by Nov. 3 would set “the new recent world record.” He added, “We’d have to do more than we’ve done in a long time to get one done that quickly, but it’s possible.”
Since 1975, the average Supreme Court confirmation has taken about 70 days, and only two were quicker than currently contemplated — Justices John Paul Stevens in 1975 and Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, both of whom were approved unanimously. Since Justice Ginsburg was confirmed with little resistance in 1993, no confirmation has taken less than 62 days.
The last time a Supreme Court nominee facing meaningful opposition was confirmed in 38 days or less from the day of their initial nomination was in 1949. While the Senate has approved other nominees to the court in election years, none has been confirmed so close to a presidential election in American history.
The calendar is not Mr. Trump’s friend at this point. The Senate is out of session for Yom Kippur next Monday and Tuesday, leaving fewer than 25 business days before Election Day to vet any nominee, conduct multiple days of hearings and hold committee and floor votes. If they moved at breakneck speed with no surprises, Republicans could, in theory, hold a vote by late the week of Oct. 19 or early the next.
Democrats have a few tools to slow down the process — most notably the ability to postpone approval by the committee for a week — but they quite likely have no means to stop Republicans altogether because filibusters were eliminated in Supreme Court confirmations. If a vote were to be delayed until after the election, Democrats could quickly gain an extra vote, assuming Mark Kelly wins a special election in Arizona and is sworn into that seat in November.
To White House officials, the short time frame argued for Judge Barrett because she was a finalist two years ago and therefore already largely vetted. As she met with the president on Monday and came away poised to be chosen, there was still attention on Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit because she is a Cuban-American from Florida, a critical state for the president’s re-election chances.