WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will likely announce a nominee within days to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin said on Sunday.
“I’ve been told it is likely to come this week, but I don’t know which day,” Durbin told NBC’s “Meet the Press” as the president entered a fourth week of considering possibilities.
Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, on “Fox News Sunday,” admitted his party lacks the votes to block the pending nominee with a procedural hurdle in the Democratic-led Senate.
But Kyl also made clear Obama’s pick will face plenty of questions. “Undoubtedly this nominee will be liberal,” said Kyl, a conservative.
Obama has been mulling a short list of mostly women for a seat on the nine-member, male-dominated high court, which decides abortion, death penalty and civil rights cases as well as ones involving business and property rights.
The pick is unlikely to change the ideological makeup of the nation’s highest court since Obama, a Democrat, is expected to select a liberal in the mold of Souter, who announced his resignation on May 1.
“He is going to look for a person who understands the law, someone of high integrity and, as he has said, someone who is in touch with the real world,” Durbin said.
While Obama has said he wants a nominee who could empathize with others, Kyl said he would be unable to back a pick who decided cases not by the law, but personal feelings.
Yet Kyl conceded, “Be clear — Republicans don’t have the votes to filibuster a nominee. And that’s probably not going to happen in this case.”
Democrats would need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to clear a Republican procedural roadblock known as a filibuster and currently have 59 in its Senate Democratic caucus.
Senators traditionally give presidents wide latitude in picking a nominee, provided they are qualified. At least a few Republicans seem certain to back Obama’s nominee.
Both Durbin and Kyl serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearing on Obama’s eventual nominee, likely in July though Republicans could try to push it back until after Congress’ August recess.
Obama has apparently narrowed his list of contenders and last week reportedly interviewed Judge Diane Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
It is unclear who else he has interviewed, but a source familiar with Obama’s thinking said he’s also been interested in U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who argues cases for the administration before the Supreme Court, and Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Obama has indicated that he may reach outside the courts for a nominee.
Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan is among the current and former governors who have been mentioned as possibilities.
Obama, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, told C-SPAN, “I want somebody who has the intellectual firepower but also a little bit of a common touch and has a practical sense of how the world works.”
Additional reporting by Will Dunham, Editing by Sandra Maler