Obama offers hints on Supreme Court pick
By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer | 2/24/2016, 10:56 a.m.
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama reiterated again Wednesday the broad outlines of what he's looking for in a candidate to replace the late justice Antonin Scalia, despite hardening resistance among Senate Republicans toward considering his eventual Supreme Court nominee.
Writing on the SCOTUSBlog website, Obama repeated his desire for a candidate who could bring life experience to the bench, along with an unassailable job history.
"A sterling record. A deep respect for the judiciary's role. An understanding of the way the world really works. That's what I'm considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court," Obama wrote. "And as senators prepare to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to consider the person I appoint, I hope they'll move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the Court can continue to serve the American people at full strength."
Obama's entreaty to lawmakers came a day after Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee vowed in a letter to forgo hearings on the White House's selection, a move unprecedented in Supreme Court nomination history. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showed little sign he would retreat from his position that Obama's successor should select Scalia's replacement on the high court.
"I don't know how many times we need to keep saying this: The Judiciary Committee has unanimously recommended to me that there be no hearing. I've said repeatedly and I'm now confident that my conference agrees that this decision ought to be made by the next president, whoever is elected," McConnell said Tuesday, adding later he was unlikely to even meet with Obama's nominee.
The chairman of the Judiciary panel, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, spoke with Obama about the selection process last week, but has so far declined invitations to meet with Obama in person, a White House official said late Tuesday.
In his post, Obama revealed little about his process in selecting a nominee, and repeated the broad criteria for a candidate that he cited during his past two Supreme Court nomination opportunities.
"Needless to say, this isn't something I take lightly," Obama wrote. "It's a decision to which I devote considerable time, deep reflection, careful deliberation, and serious consultation with legal experts, members of both political parties, and people across the political spectrum."
Obama's aides said he spent last weekend delving into detailed packets about potential candidates. He was seen carrying a large black binder, divided into nine sections, as he returned to his residence Friday evening.
In his post, Obama made no indication of what ideology he was seeking in a Supreme Court nominee, and the White House insists he remains open to a spectrum of candidates.
But in recent days his allies have suggested Obama select a moderate who has gained support in the past from Republicans, even as it appears increasingly unlikely that any nominee will gain traction among GOP lawmakers.
Vice President Joe Biden suggested in interviews last week Obama pick a "consensus candidate" and not the most "liberal jurist" he could muster. Without naming specific judges, he said there were plenty of names on the federal bench who had enjoyed broad support from Republicans during their confirmation processes.
Many of those names currently serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, one of the nation's most important panels since it hears challenges to certain federal agencies.
While the court is sometimes regarded as a stepping-stone for judges to eventually serve on the Supreme Court, a former top adviser to Obama suggested Tuesday the President may avoid picking a name from that lower panel.
"Because those cases are critical cases and there are several of them before them right now, I think he'll look elsewhere for a nominee," David Axelrod, now a CNN senior political commentator, said on "The Situation Room."