WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked not to be considered as a nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.
Lynch, 56, was rumored to be under consideration by Democratic President Barack Obama. She is held in high regard within the administration, received bipartisan support for her nomination as attorney general and would be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
“Given the urgent issues before the Department of Justice, she asked not to be considered for the position,” the department said in a statement.
In recent weeks, other names have emerged on Obama’s short list, including Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly and Paul Watford, all of whom serve as federal appeals court judges.
In an interview with Fox News last week, Lynch responded to speculation she was being vetted for the job.
“I haven’t had those conversations. I‘m very happy with my job,” Lynch said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said that while Lynch was deeply grateful for the support of those who suggested her as a high court nominee, “she is honored to serve as attorney general, and she is fully committed to carrying out the work of the Department of Justice for the remainder of her term.”
The process of filling the spot that was held by Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative justices, has ignited a partisan battle in Washington.
Republicans who control the U.S. Senate do not want to see the court shift ideologically to the left and have said they will not hold a vote on Obama’s nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the next Supreme Court justice should be chosen by the winner of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney