WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are near-unanimous in demanding that President Barack Obama leave it to his successor to nominate a candidate to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But the president insists he plans to come forward with a nominee — and that there’s plenty of time for the Senate to weigh in.
That sets up what could be an epic election-year clash between Obama and Republicans who say they’ll refuse to vote for his nominee, who could reshape the court for decades to come.
So who will President Obama pick?
The White House had prepared for the possibility of liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer retiring — but less so for a sudden vacancy of one of the court’s staunch conservatives like Scalia, said a former administration lawyer with knowledge of current White House planning. Now the White House is scrambling to put together a “short list” of candidates to be fully vetted, said the former official, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The biggest question facing Obama: whether he and his team feel there’s any realistic chance they can persuade Republicans to allow a vote.
If the answer is yes, President Obama would have to try to find a perfect candidate with enough appeal to Republicans to change their minds. A sitting senator or someone recently confirmed might do the trick.
If the answer is no, President Obama could try to use his selection to political advantage in this year’s elections by nominating someone who would spark backlash if Republicans oppose him or her. Picking a minority or someone from a battleground state in the election could rile up the Democratic base.
The White House said Sunday that Obama will nominate someone “in due time” once the Senate returns next week from recess. President Obama took roughly a month to nominate Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, but this time the clock is ticking like never before.
President Obama hasn’t said who he’s considering, but some Cabinet members, politicians and current judges are being prominently floated as possible picks:
The Cabinet Members
• Attorney General Loretta Lynch
Though Attorney Geneal Lynch’s nomination was fraught with politics, she’s been recently confirmed and has been received relatively well by both parties since taking over the Justice department less than a year ago. Before Obama promoted her, Lynch was a U.S. attorney for a key district based in Brooklyn. An African American woman has never served on the Supreme Court. But her role in the Obama administration could prove divisive.
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