After meeting with Senate leaders at the White House about the next Supreme Court nominee, President Barack Obama told reporters this morning that he will select someone to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens some time next month.
Speaking to the press as he sat with Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions, Obama called Stevens “one of the finest Supreme Court justices that we’ve seen.”
“Those are going to be some tough shoes to fill,” Obama said. “This is somebody who operated with extraordinary integrity and fidelity to the law. But I’m confident that we can come up with a nominee who will gain the confidence of the Senate and the confidence of the country, and the confidence of individuals who look to the Court to provide even handed justice to all Americans.”
Obama said he hoped for the confirmation process to go as smoothly as it did last year.
“Last time when I nominated Sonia Sotomayor, I have to say that all the individuals who are sitting here … worked very cooperatively on what I considered to be a very smooth, civil, thoughtful nomination process and confirmation process. [M]y hope is that we can do the same thing this time.”
He said last year the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor came at the end of May, and he hoped to make or beat that timeline this year.
When asked what bearing the issue of abortion would have on his selection, Obama said he firmly believes in a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, but said that he had no litmus test.
“This has been a hugely contentions issue in our country for a very long time,” Obama said. “I have said the same thing that every president has said since this issue case up, which is I don’t have a litmus test.”
But he said he would select “somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that is going to be something very important to me. … Individuals are protected in their privacy, their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.”
UPDATE: After the meeting, Sessions and McConnell issued a joint statement:
“When the President selects a nominee, Senate Republicans will review that nominee’s record diligently and respectfully with the goal of ensuring that the American people can be confident that the nominee will be able to fulfill the judicial oath, which is to ‘faithfully and impartially’ administer justice ‘without respect to persons,’” the statement read.
“Judges must apply the Constitution and laws even-handedly. They should not enter the courtroom with preconceived outcomes in mind, or work to arrive at the preferred result of any President or political party. A Supreme Court justice must not be a rubberstamp or policy arm for any Administration.
“As we did with Justice Sotomayor, we will treat the President’s nominee fairly. But a lifetime position on the nation’s highest court requires a thorough process, not a rush to judgment.”