A WOMAN’S SEAT
The White House Counsel’s Office, as well as its political staff, have begun vetting several prospective Supreme Court nominees with an expectation that President Barack Obama will be making a nomination within the next year, says an Obama White House adviser.
“We’re expecting that Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg will be retiring or otherwise not be able to perform her responsibilities,” says the adviser. “There isn’t a timeline, and no one here has spoken to the Ginsburg family in that kind of capacity, but we all know how serious pancreatic cancer can be, and this vetting process has to be better than what we’ve been doing with our Cabinet positions.”
The Obama White House is currently looking at three women at the top of the list to replace Ginsburg, all of whom have had their names linked to a potential Obama Supreme Court nomination: Judge Sonya Sotomayor; Elena Kagan, Obama’s Solicitor General nominee, and Judge Diane Wood.
Sotomayor, who sits on the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was appointed to the bench in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush. She is favored, according to the White House insider, because she comes off as a centrist. “She has shown a distrust of federal government, but has also been pro-labor, which is a plus for us right now,” says the insider. “The fact that she would be a historic pick, doesn’t hurt.” Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic-American appointed to the Supreme Court if she were nominated and confirmed.
Kagan, is about to undergo confirmation hearings for the Solicitor General position. Some fireworks are expected due to the Harvard Law School dean’s position to block or limit access by military recruiters from college campuses, but she is expected to be confirmed as the first woman to that post. “She’s been vetted once for this job, and my guess is that from a background perspective, she’d be an easy nomination, but given her political jobs in the past, there would be problems,” says the White House insider.
Kagan worked as both an associate White House Counsel and then as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Clinton White House. She also clerked for both U.S. Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She has been at Harvard since 2001, becoming deal of the school in 2003.
“Her jobs for Clinton would be gone over much more extensively than perhaps they’ve been done this time around,” says the adviser.
Finally, there is Judge Wood, who worked in the Carter Administration’s State Department as an attorney in the Office of the Legal Adviser, and at Georgetown Law School and at the University of Chicago Law School before being nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Wood’s paper trail would also be rich for researchers, as beyond her work for Carter she also served as a legal adviser to the Department of Justice in the Reagan Administration, as well as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for international, appellate, and policy in DOJ’s Antitrust Division during the Clinton Administration.
GOP MOD SQUAD
Senate Democrats and their aides were privately crowing about the deal cut over the weekend on the Reid-Pelosi-Obama spending bill. “There isn’t anything we cut that we would have fought over anyway,” says a senior Senate Democrat leadership aide. “If it makes the Republicans feel better cutting stuff we didn’t care about, then fine. In the end, we got everything we wanted and the ability to hang this on Republicans in two years if things continue to go south. This is now a bipartisan bill, whether they like it or not.”
On Sunday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid was telling reporters that he had the votes to pass the spending bill by the middle of the week, and that the vote would almost certainly garner at least three Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, and Olympia Snowe. All three were involved at some point in negotiations with Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson, and won cuts in funding that would have computerized personal medical records, covered tax breaks for solar and wind firms, and allowed a $500 payroll tax credit to individuals earning less than $75,000 — that ceiling is apparently now at $70,000.
“These were a drop in the bucket compared to what we wanted,” says a GOP leadership aide. “The mod squad doesn’t represent the rest of the Republican Senate, and my guess is that Reid will get his sixty votes, but it won’t be because conservative Republicans in the Senate went along. We’re going to fight this thing as much as we can.”
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