White House: President Obama Already Starting Supreme Court Nomination Process

President Obama speaks to reporters about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Saturday. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
President Obama speaks to reporters about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Saturday.
(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

President Obama could nominate a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia as soon as next week when the Senate returns from a week-long recess, the White House said Monday.

“As soon as the Senate returns, the president was very clear that he is going to to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters travelling with the president in Rancho Mirage, Calif. for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders.

And while the White House is not engaging in the parlor game of short-listing candidates, the process is already moving forward.

The White House has already had discussions with senators from both parties, “a signal that we plan on conducting robust engagement in this process,” Schultz said.

He rebuffed questions about whether Obama would make a short-term recess appointment to the court, saying the president’s duty to make a nomination is “ironclad.”

“There are no caveats. The constitution does not include exemptions for election years, or when the president is in his last term. There’s no exemption for when a nomination would tip the balance of the court,” Schultz said. “We’re in an election year, so I’m not going to pretend that;s no part of the atmospherics here. But the president is focused on doing his job.”

Scalia, a conservative bulwark, was the longest-serving justice on the court when he died Saturday at age 79. Within minutes of the news breaking, Senate Republicans suggested that they would not consider any nominee until after the next president takes office in 11 months.

White House aides were dropping no hints as to who the president would nominate, other than to look at his previous two Supreme Court nominees: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Obama would look for jurists who are well qualified, respect the integrity of the courts and adhere to precedent, Schultz said. But as Obama made clear with the Sotomayor nomination, a nominee’s biography is also relevant in informing their decisions, especially when the law isn’t clear.

“In those times, a judge will have to bring his or her own ethics and moral bearings to a decision,” Schultz said. “In those instances, the president seeks judges who understand that justice is not some abstract legal theory or a footnote in a case book, but it is also about how those laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives.”

SOURCE: USA Today – Gregory Korte