- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Senate leaders said Wednesday they expect President Obama will “soon” announce his nominee for the Supreme Court, but also Mr. Obama pledged not to rush the process and to attempt to give both parties fair time to examine the choice for filling the vacancy left by retiring Justice David Souter.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledged the average time from a presidential nomination to a Senate hearing was about 60 days and said he believes the Senate will meet that expectation.

“If we can do it quicker than that, we’ll do it,” Mr. Reid said after emerging from a West Wing meeting with the president.

The Nevada Democrat said he expects the hearings to move “as quickly as possible,” but repeatedly stressed he would not adhere to “arbitrary deadlines.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, promised a “real debate and real hearing” to “come together and try to restore the credibility of the federal judiciary.”

“We’ll work out a decent schedule. Let’s get the nominee first,” Mr. Leahy said, adding, “I’m not going to drag my feet.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the committee and minority point man on the nomination, said he hopes for a “unifying” pick but noted Mr. Obama as a senator opposed the nominations of both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito during President Bush’s second term.

Mr. Sessions said he expects the president to “get busy” on the nomination soon, but that he does not think it is “imminent.”

He added there “should not be any perception of ramming this through on artificial deadlines.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said unless Mr. Obama chooses a “very controversial” nominee, the process will allow for a new justice to be seated “well in advance” of the next high court session which begins Oct. 5.

The four leaders said Mr. Obama did not suggest potential nominees to the group during the private meeting.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president would like to have things in place before the August congressional recess.

Mr. Gibbs also told reporters the Supreme Court pick is a decision the president alone will make, adding he doesn’t think the the lobbying of interest groups will help and might even be “counterproductive.”

That afternoon Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, urged supporters via Twitter to sign a petition asking Mr. Obama to appoint a woman to the post. Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Republican, co-signed a letter with Mrs. Boxer to push for a female nominee.

Mr. Gibbs also said press speculation about Mr. Obama’s so-called “short list” for the nomination does not include everyone he is considering for replacing Mr. Souter.

“The president does take some heart in knowing that in all of the lists that have been seen and produced, there hasn’t yet been one produced with the totality of names … which are being considered,” Mr. Gibbs said.

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