A Supreme Court Nomination Next Week?
Updated 6:35 p.m.
By Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray
President Obama told senators at a White House meeting today that he would review names of potential Supreme Court nominees over the weekend, leading participants to believe an announcement could come within days, according to senior Senate aides who were briefed on the gathering.
Obama did not give out any names of potential successors to retiring Justice David Souter, nor did he give a specific timeline, said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of four senior senators who attended the meeting. But the president encouraged Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) to follow up with written comments about nominees they would favor or thoughts on any of the nominees whose names had been discussed in the media as potential picks.
Sessions said the president did "most of the talking" at the 40-minute meeting gathering. "He had not made up his mind, and he had resolved to try to go forward as quickly as he can," Sessions told reporters. He did not indicate whether he would provide Obama written guidance on potential nominees who would provoke the strongest objections from Republicans.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters afterwards that Obama reiterated to the group that he "would choose a nominee who respects the Constitution and judicial precedent and also has the good judgment and common sense to reach fair decisions." The president urged senators to act quickly on the nomination to ensure that the new justice is confirmed before the court's new term begins in October, "with time to prepare beforehand."
Senate aides said Reid told Obama that the goal was a confirmation vote before the Senate departs on its summer recess. The official adjournment date is August 7.
Gibbs said senators concurred with Obama "that the process would be civil" and that the aim was for the nominee to receive a "fair hearing in which their views could be thoughtfully discussed in a way that highlights the strengths of the American justice system." Senate aides said Reid and Leahy noted their preference for a justice "with real-life experience."
Also today, Sessions announced that he was bringing in his own top staff to the Judiciary Committee, replacing the top echelon of aides that his predecessor, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), had compiled before he switched parties two weeks ago.
Brian Benczkowski, a veteran of the Justice Department, will serve as staff director. Benczkowski recently served as chief of staff to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and before that was deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, and chief of staff at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Posted at 3:46 PM ET on May 13, 2009
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