Obama to begin weighing Supreme Court candidates this weekend

Story highlights

  • President Barack Obama will start reading through extensive packets of information about potential Supreme Court nominees this weekend
  • The information includes details of their professional careers, records and experience

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama has remained tight-lipped on his strategy for overcoming an intransigent Congress and seeing his Supreme Court nominee confirmed, but his aides and allies have already begun describing in broad contours what they're looking for in a candidate.

The job listing includes some specific requirements on employment history: Vice President Joe Biden has made known in the past several days that candidates who have been confirmed for their current posts with votes from Republicans stand a better chance of being elevated by the Senate onto the court.
    The White House has said little about who Obama is eyeing as his makes the high-stakes pick. Asked Tuesday whether he was likely to consider only moderate candidates, the President flatly said "no."
    He'll spend his weekend delving into the records and job histories of potential candidates, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. White House lawyers have prepared lengthy briefing dossiers for Obama's review that include detailed accounts of top picks for the court.
    Earnest said Obama does not yet have a shortlist of candidates. He would not specify how many nominees were being reviewed, but he did say it was more than two and that the list is not complete.
    As the week wound down, Obama himself phoned leaders in the Senate -- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Harry Reid, along with the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy -- to discuss the process going forward.
    "The President will consult a wide variety of individuals with a wide variety of perspectives as he contemplates his nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court," Earnest said.
    But even as the White House insists Obama is reviewing a broad range of candidates, signals are emerging that a candidate without staunchly liberal credentials is the preferred choice for Obama's closest advisers.
    "The Senate gets to have a say, and so in order to get this done, the President is not going to be able to go out -- nor would it be his instinct anyway -- to pick the most liberal jurist in the nation and put them on the court. There are plenty of judges on high courts already who have had unanimous support of the Republicans," Biden told Minnesota Public Radio in an interview this week.
    Biden served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his decades on Capitol Hill, and presided over Supreme Court nominee hearings himself, including contentious meetings with Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He's expected to act as an adviser to Obama during the nominee selection process and a liaison to his former colleagues in the Senate once an appointment is made.
    "We have to pick somebody, as the President will, who is intellectually competent, is a person of high moral character, is a person who is demonstrated to have an open mind, and is a person who doesn't come with a specific agenda," he told Politico and The Washington Post in an interview aboard his vice presidential aircraft Thursday. He described the ideal person as a "consensus candidate" in an interview with MSNBC.
    It's a strategy that could disappoint some liberals, who are pushing the White House to advance a strongly left-leaning candidate that could galvanize Democratic voters heading into this year's election.
    "The tremendous amount of grassroots energy focused on ensuring the Republican Senate votes on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee will dissipate dramatically if he nominates a candidate who isn't rock solid in their commitment to major progressive priorities for the court like protecting abortion rights and ending Citizens United," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of liberal group Democracy for America.
    But it's the favorite position of many Senate Democrats, who have suggested a moderate candidate who still gains little support from Republicans could inflict damage on the GOP.
    The White House, officially quiet on what type of candidates Obama considering, has offered some general characteristics that Obama is looking for in a nominee.
    Earnest said this week that "individuals who have a thick skin" are necessary to survive the intrusive vetting process to secure a nomination, and later undergo contentious hearings on Capitol Hill, though Republicans have yet to announce whether those hearings will actually go forward.
    Earlier in the week, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama was seeking candidates with "impeccable credentials" who "respect the integrity of the judicial process" but also brings "his or her own ethics and moral bearings into a decision."
    But on Thursday, Earnest also suggested a nominee with a history of support from Republicans would be given ample consideration, saying Biden had pointed out a "relevant fact" by highlighting justices who had gained bipartisan support.
    "There is a track record that the President has of appointing people whose qualifications are beyond question," Earnest said. "And I would expect that the President will nominate someone else -- or someone to the Supreme Court who has credentials that could be similarly described."