By Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. Senate will likely open hearings on his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, on Oct. 12 and he expected a full Senate vote before the Nov. 3 election.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Saturday evening that the committee would host a hearing for opening statements on Oct. 12, followed by three to four days of questions and testimony.
"It's going to go fast. We're looking to do it before the election. So it's going to go very fast," Trump said.
The hearings are part of an accelerated timeline as the Republican-controlled Senate seeks to vote on Trump's nominee before the election, and cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.
If confirmed, Barrett, a conservative and a devout Roman Catholic, will replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18.
Trump this week said he believed the Supreme Court would be called upon to rule on the election outcome, something that has happened only once in American history, in 2000.
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that voting by mail, a longstanding feature of American politics, could lead to a surge in election fraud. He also has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.
Graham, a Republican and Trump ally, has said he hopes to have a normal hearing process despite an expedited timeline and Democratic protests that Trump should not be filling the vacancy before the country chooses its president.
"My hope is to be able to do it in a fashion that we cannot deviate from the norms too much," Graham said earlier this week. He also said he wants to finish the hearing process and get the nominee to the floor before Election Day.
But the start date allows senators far less time than usual to get ready. The last six court nominees have waited about eight weeks for their hearings, the judiciary committee's top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said this week. She said this amount of time was needed for senators to adequately prepare.
Following Saturday's nomination Feinstein said in a statement "there are now only 38 days until the election, and early voting has already begun in many states. No Supreme Court vacancy has been filled this close to a presidential election."
Typically nominees also visit members of the judiciary committee before the confirmation hearings, although it's unclear how the coronavirus pandemic will affect that tradition as well as others.
Given Republicans' 53-47 majority in the chamber, Democrats have no way of blocking a quick confirmation of a Trump nominee, even though two Republican senators have voiced objections.
The judiciary committee has 22 members - 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including Senator Kamala Harris, running mate to Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell with additional reporting by Mike Stone and Idrees Ali iN Washington, D.C.; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sandra Maler)