© Greg Nash
The White House is vetting federal appellate judge Jane Kelly as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The report is a sign that President Obama is making progress toward choosing a nominee, which would open up a new phase in his election-year clash with Republicans over filling the vacancy left by deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.
The White House declined to comment to the Times on whether Kelly is being vetted. Press secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday would not divulge details of where Obama is in the nominating process, other than to say the White House has reached out to every Senate office to discuss the vacancy.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) on Wednesday said a pick could come in the next week.
If Obama selects Kelly, it would put pressure on Senate Republicans who have repeatedly vowed they will not hold hearings or votes on the president’s nominee.
She has previously garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats. The GOP-controlled Senate unanimously confirmed Kelly, 51, to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.
A career public defender, Kelly was backed by Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyComey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee GOP to kill language exempting staff from new ObamaCare repeal bill House cyber chairman wants to bolster workforce MORE (R-Iowa), who now serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Iowa Republican praised Kelly during her 2013 confirmation hearing. He cited a glowing endorsement letter from 8th Circuit Judge David Hansen, who is close with Grassley and for whom Kelly previously clerked.
“Every sentence of it speaks highly of your work,” he said. “In that letter, he states that Ms. Kelly has practiced law in an exemplary fashion. … Judge Hansen concludes that she will be a welcome addition to the court, if confirmed, and I have a great deal of confidence in Judge Hansen.”
Kelly’s nomination could allow Obama and his Democratic allies to pressure Grassley to consider confirming her. But so far, the senator has refused to budge from his stance that the next president, and not Obama, should name Scalia’s successor.
“I said this is more basic than just the stuff we’ve been talking about. You have a certain view of the role of government. We have a different view of the role of government,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office.