The White House on Tuesday put to rest speculation that President Obama may choose his first Supreme Court nominee as early as this week.
Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said during his Tuesday briefing that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was incorrect when he told reporters on Monday that he expected to see a nomination by the end of this week or this weekend.
"It's not going to happen this week," Gibbs said.
Gibbs was less forthcoming, however, on whether a nomination could be made next week--he told reporters he would get back to them about that.
Mr. Obama has indicated that he would like to have a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter in place for the Supreme Court session that begins in October.
In the meantime, the White House has begun reaching out to some senators and other players for input on the nomination--while interest groups and political pundits ratchet up their own positions on the matter.
Hatch gave reporters his prognosis for a quick nomination after speaking to the president on the phone on Monday. Mr. Obama also reached out that day to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who urged the president to appoint a woman to the bench, according to the Politico, as well as newly-turned Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
"The president called me around noon today to begin the consultation process on a new Supreme Court nominee," Specter said in a statement. "He asked for recommendations and I told him I would think it over and get back to him."
The president, though, has yet to seek out the advice of the new ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The staunch conservative will lead Republicans on the committee through the nominating process. However, in a deal reached with other Republicans, Sessions will relinquish the position in 2010 to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who was also in line to be the committee's top Republican.
Sessions has promised full hearings for Mr. Obama's pick, but he has not ruled out the use of a filibuster to block the nominee on the Senate floor, the Politico reported.
The presumed frontrunners for the position are already coming under close public scrutiny.
Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who is considered the top contender for the slot being vacated by David Souter, is the subject of a critical article published Monday by the New Republic called "The Case Against Sotomayor." Right-wing pundits have already taken up the article as ammunition against the case for promoting diversity on the Court, while others on the left are assailing author Jeffrey Rosen for shoddy and biased reporting.
To add fuel to the fire, a video recently surfaced of Sotomayor giving a speech at Duke University in 2005, in which she says courts are the place "where policy is made." She qualifies her statement by saying, "I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it."
Meanwhile, a memo from a leading conservative legal group criticizes Sotomayor, along with the two other presumed frontrunners--Solicitor General Elena Kagan and appellate judge Diane Wood. The memo from Wendy Long and Gary Marx of the Judicial Confirmation Network also says the nominating process should be slowed down, according to the Washington Post.
"We need a fair, orderly process to educate Americans about the potential nominees that the Obama-Leahy machine seems determined to rush through the confirmation process," it says.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund is applauding the possible nomination of Kathleen Sullivan, the former dean of Stanford Law School who is open about being a lesbian.
"I think the community was hopeful we would see the first openly gay or lesbian Cabinet secretary and that didn't happen, which was a little disappointing," Denis Dison of the Victory Fund told the Politico.
"The same thing is happening now with the Supreme Court vacancy...It's not so much we want to check that box at the Supreme Court level, but that achievement would be breaking the glass ceiling in a huge way."