Sessions on Obama: 'He's So Nice'
By Paul Kane
The Supreme Court nomination battle is off to a civil start.
Extending an olive branch, President Obama today called Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was officially elevated to ranking member of the Judiciary Committee by his peers at a lunchtime meeting of the Republican conference.
"He's so nice," Sessions said.
Sessions told reporters that Obama is "very personable" and was surprised to see how close the president remains to his former Senate colleagues. Two months ago, when Sessions' 95-year-old grandmother died in an assisted-living center in Mobile, Ala., Obama called to offer his condolences. "I appreciated that courtesy," Sessions said.
The courtesy call this time was an opening volley in Obama's selection process for the successor to retiring Justice David H. Souter.
Obama did not discuss names of any potential candidates with Sessions, who said he also did not discuss the nomination timeline, but suggested the president knows what type of pragmatic jurist he wants for the position.
"He's thought about it and he's got in his mind, if not the name, the kind of nominee he's going to submit," Sessions said.
Sessions -- a sharp-elbows conservative who replaced party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) as the top Judiciary Republican -- has shied away from some of the filibuster talk coming from conservative activists. He specifically dismissed using an obscure rule that would effectively filibuster the nominee at the committee level, suggesting tradition dictates that Supreme Court nominees always get full votes on the Senate floor.
And he suggested that there would have to be "extraordinary circumstances" for Republicans to consider mounting a filibuster on the Senate floor of the nominee, using language that a group of 14 centrist senators adopted as their filibuster creed four years ago when they diffused a GOP-led effort to forbid filibusters of judicial nominees. Sessions said he would define that term in a "very high standard" before considering supporting a filibuster.
"I hope we don't have that kind of fight," Sessions said.
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