Mourners pay homage as Ginsburg lies in repose at US Supreme Court
The flag-draped casket of the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS AFP

Mourners flocked Wednesday to pay respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death opened a crucial US Supreme Court seat that Donald Trump has vowed to fill before the election, as she lay in repose at the top court.

Memorial services celebrating Ginsburg's life and career began with more than 100 of her former law clerks standing on the steps of the court as her casket was carried inside in the crisp September morning air.

The progressive justice, who died last week, will lie in repose at the court on Wednesday and Thursday, when the White House says Trump will visit to pay his respects.

On Friday she will become the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol.

Her death has opened a Supreme Court seat that Trump has promised to quickly fill. He has said he will announce his pick to replace Ginsburg at 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) Saturday, with Senate Republicans planning a swift vote on the nominee.

Trump has pledged to choose a woman for the lifetime post, telling a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday that he will pick a "great" one.

But Democratic opponents, led by presidential candidate Joe Biden, are demanding that the process wait until after the November 3 election, when it will be known whether Trump is getting a second term.

- Political battle -

Republicans say that with their current control of the White House and the Senate, they have the right to fill the seat.

That gives Trump, who has already replaced two other justices, a chance to tilt the nation's highest court to the right for decades to come, whether he beats Biden or not.

Leaders of the Republican majority in the Senate, which is tasked with confirming court nominees, said they had enough support to hold a vote on the nomination either before the election or at worst during the "lame-duck" session between November 3 and the inauguration of the next president in January.

"We will certainly do that this year," Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said.

Two Republicans have said they do not believe the vote should be held before the election.

Adding to tensions, there is fear that leaving Ginsburg's seat unfilled -- reducing the court to eight justices -- raises the possibility of a 4-4 tie in the event of rulings related to election disputes.

Trump's Saturday announcement will set the clock ticking on what is likely to be a contentious fight in Congress as Republicans push to get the nominee confirmed at an unusually quick pace.

Although Democrats have no way of stopping the procedure, they will seek to inflict political pain on the Republicans over what Biden called an "abuse of power."