While family and friends gather this weekend to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the president is skipping the funeral to “dig into” information on a long list of nominees to fill the pivotal vacancy on the high court.
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Since Scalia's death last Saturday in Texas, the burning question in Washington has been who is populating President Obama’s short list of potential nominees to replace Scalia's seat on the nation's highest court. But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president does not yet have one.
“This is not a short list,” Earnest said, refusing to enumerate the scope of the president’s search at this stage. “This is the beginning of a process to evaluate a number of individuals for consideration for a nomination.”
The president will spend a “significant portion of his weekend” reviewing material on “several” potential nominees compiled by White House lawyers, Earnest said. "I would expect, over the weekend, that the president will begin to dig into the materials that have been prepared for him by his team."
“These are materials related to some potential nominees. This would include information about these individuals’ record, about their professional career and their professional experience, all of which they would bring to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” he said. “There are, as you know, a large number of lawyers who work at the White House, and they've produced a significant quantity of information and I suspect the president will be dedicating a significant portion of his weekend digging into that information.”
Earnest hinted that a final decision is not expected for several weeks, in line with the length of time the president took for his prior two Supreme Court nominations -- Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“I don't have a different timeline to lay out, but I think that gives you an indication of the amount of time [four or five weeks] that is required to conduct a detailed search and to do the vetting that is necessary to determine who the best person for the job is,” Earnest said.