WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama could announce his second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this week, administration officials said, although they declined on Tuesday to say how many names were left on his short list of candidates.
Obama has been expected to decide quickly on who he would like to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, with critical congressional elections looming in November.
Elena Kagan, the U.S. solicitor general; Diane Wood, a U.S. appeals court judge in Chicago; Merrick Garland, an appeals court judge in Washington, D.C.; and Sidney Thomas, an appeals court judge in San Francisco, are the four names most generally considered as favorites for the pick.
Administration officials have confirmed that all are on Obama's short list of candidates, and that Obama has interviewed at least some of them in person. They had said the short list included about 10 names.
Stevens is the Supreme Court's leading liberal. The Democratic president's pick is not expected to shift the ideological balance of the closely divided court, which now has five conservatives and four liberals.
Republicans have had little to say about any of Obama's potential picks since Stevens announced his retirement last month, which could be a sign that there will not be an intense confirmation battle on Capitol Hill.
White House officials had said they expected a tough confirmation fight with Republicans in Congress, no matter whom Obama nominates.
Stevens is known as a consensus builder whose intellect and persuasiveness have in some cases helped move the conservative-leaning court toward his opinions.
Administration officials say Obama is seeking a liberal of intellectual heft who also possesses consensus-building skills.
Obama has said he wants to announce his pick by the end of May, so the confirmation process can be finished in time for the new justice. He announced his first Supreme Court nominee, then-appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, on May 26, 2009, and she was confirmed in early August.
Other names on Obama's short list are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Martha Minow, the dean of Harvard Law School; Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm; Ann Claire Williams, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leah Ward Sears, who retired last year as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.
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