Obama narrows Supreme Court shortlist down to three

Obama narrows Supreme Court shortlist down to three

President Obama has chosen three top candidates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Reuters reported Friday. 

A trio of federal appellate judges made the cut: Merrick Garland, the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Judge Sri Srinivasan, of the same court; and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul Watford, according to sources who spoke to the wire service.

The first two are reportedly considered the top contenders. 

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The development is another sign Obama is nearing a decision on a nominee to replace Scalia, whose unexpected death last month set off a partisan fight over filling his seat.

NPR reported earlier this week that 8th Circuit Judge Jane Kelly and U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson were to be interviewed by Obama, but it is unclear if they are out of the running, according to Reuters.

Republican leaders in the Senate have vowed not to hold hearings or votes on Obama’s nominee, no matter who it is. They say the next president should name a replacement for Scalia, who led the court’s conservative wing. 

But as the list indicates, Obama is expected to nominate a highly qualified judge with bipartisan credentials with the hopes of convincing Republicans to change their tune. 

"It’s somebody who I want to make sure follows the Constitution; cares about things like stare decisis and precedent; understands the necessary humility of a judge at any level in looking at statute, looking at what the elected branches are doing; is not viewing themselves as making law or, in some ways, standing above elected representatives," Obama said Thursday of his nominee.

The president said he's looking for someone who also "recognizes the critical role that that branch plays in protecting minorities to ensuring that the political system doesn’t skew in ways that systematically leave people out."

Srinivasan, 49, would be the first Indian-American and Hindu on the Supreme Court. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2013 to serve on the powerful D.C. appeals court.

The Kansas native has strong ties to Republicans. He is friends with Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzRight renews push for term limits as Trump takes power Dissenting nominees give hope to GOP skeptics of Trump UN leader willing to meet lawmakers amid push to cut funding MORE (Texas), a 2016 presidential candidate, dating back to their time clerking on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Garland, 63, is the chief judge of the D.C. court and has cultivated a moderate reputation in Washington. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchDems push for outside witnesses at Mnuchin hearing Live coverage: The Senate's 'vote-a-rama' Republicans scramble on ObamaCare replacement plan MORE (R-Utah) said in 2010 he would help Garland, a Bill ClintonBill ClintonDem boycotts of inauguration grow Dems 'outraged' with Comey after House briefing Poll: Trump enters office with historically low approval rating MORE appointee, get confirmed to the Supreme Court if he was nominated. Obama instead chose his solicitor general, Elena Kagan, for the open seat. 

Watford, 48, sits on the 9th Circuit, which has a liberal reputation, but he is thought of as having a moderate disposition. Still, the California-based judge had a rockier Senate confirmation battle than Srinivasan and Garland. 

If confirmed, Watford would be only the third black Supreme Court justice in the nation’s history. It would also be the first time in history that two African-Americans sit on the nine-member court.