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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.

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 5, 2009; 7:31 PM ET
Categories:  Supreme Court  
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Comments

I have always had the belief that when someone is nice and congenial, it makes it harder to find fault and be negative with them. Only the Republicans who can't get over the election and have sour grapes will be the ones who will dig up unsubstantiated gossip about a nominee.

Posted by: lakeside1 | May 6, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

For Senator Sessions to be the lead Republican is irony indeed. Remember, this is the arch racist who himself lost his bid for a judicial post due to the overt racist statements in his history. I trust that experience has mellowed this traditional racist whose history of bigotry ill prepares him to be even the ranking member on the judicial committee during a supreme Court nomination. So far as my research shows though, Senator Sessions has not repudiated his disgusting KKK-like stands of the past. However, his state elected him even with that history so we need to hope and pray that this man does not let loose those sentiments in his consideration of this next or any court nominee.

Posted by: mari2JJ | May 6, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I suppose it's tough on the GOP members of both houses of Congress since it seems that President Obama is knowledgeable about the issues, has a known track record of achievement and is a pretty nice fella who just happens to have a vision extending beyond the end of his nose.

Maddening, eh, boys and girls?

Posted by: MT_Guy | May 6, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

President OBama should not allow any current or past racists in his prescience, it is disgraceful to the memory of Dr. King and Malcom. We are in control now, it is time honkey sits at the rear of the bus, or drive it.

Posted by: l_ervin | May 6, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

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