By Megan Cassella and David Morgan
Republican senators have raised the possibility they would confirm Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland before the US president leaves office if Democrats retain the White House in the November 8 election.
Republicans are concerned that if Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state and the Democratic front-runner, wins the presidential election, she could send the Senate a far more liberal nominee after taking office next January.
Garland, an appeals court judge and former federal prosecutor, is widely viewed as a moderate acceptable to many Republicans, who also could be concerned about losing control of the Senate to the Democrats in the November vote.
Supreme Court nominations require Senate confirmation.
Republicans want the next president to make the selection, hoping their party wins November's election.
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is the Republican front-runner in the presidential race.
Obama nominated Garland, 63, to the lifetime position on Wednesday to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13.
Garland on Thursday began the customary meetings with senators that kick off the confirmation process.
Utah's Orrin Hatch and Arizona's Jeff Flake, Republican members of the Judiciary Committee that would hold any confirmation hearings, said it was possible the Republican-led Senate could act on Garland's nomination in a "lame-duck" session after the election and before a new president and Congress take office in January 2017.
"I would rather have a less liberal nominee like Merrick Garland than a nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put forward," Flake told Fox.
The Senate's Republican leaders have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Obama.