Obama insists there’s no abortion ‘litmus test’ for Supreme Court pick

Abortion will not be a “litmus test” for a Supreme Court nominee, whom President Barack Obama said would be named by the end of May.

The president emphasized Tuesday during a meeting with Senate leaders that he would pick someone who keeps women's-rights issues in mind when considering cases.

Obama said his nominee would be someone who interprets “our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights.”

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“And that's going to be something that’s very important to me,” Obama said.

Obama made the comments at a meeting with Senate leaders from both parties in the Oval Office on Wednesday to discuss his second nomination to the high court.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters after the meeting that the “tone of the meeting” was good because of how well the proceedings over Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, went last summer.

Administration officials have said their goal is to have a nominee named by May 26, and Obama said that his pick to replace Justice John Paul Stevens would “certainly” be made by the end of next month and could come even sooner.

“Last time, the nomination went up at the end of May," he told reporters. “We are certainly going to meet that deadline, and we hope maybe we can accelerate it a little bit so that we have some additional time. But my hope is that we're going to be able to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in time for the next session."

Reid said no names were discussed during the meeting with Republicans, but both he and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said they have privately provided Obama with names.

Reid and Leahy said Obama's nominee will be confirmed before the first of August, and Obama reiterated his desire to see that happen so that the new justice can join the court for its fall session.

“The Senate's reputation is on the line here,” Reid said.

Reid, GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Leahy and Judiciary ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) attended the White House meeting, designed to send the signal that the president is taking input from both parties.

After the meeting, Obama called nine other members of the Judiciary panel. He'll be making more calls in the days ahead, according to the White House.

Leahy warned Republicans not to “stake out a position before they even hear who the nominee is.”

“Let's wait until we see what happens," Leahy said.

He added that he thought the court has taken on a “conservative, activist” tone, and he hopes that Obama's pick will not be beholden to either major political party.

“I would hope that we ignore the groups on the far right and the far left,” Leahy said.

On abortion, Obama said that he is “somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction.”

That said, Obama said he would follow the example of presidents before him, saying he doesn't “have a litmus test around any of these issues.”

Obama thanked the bipartisan group of senators for joining him at the White House, and said he is going to listen to Republicans and Democrats before making a decision.

“I take this process very seriously, so I'm going to interested in hearing their thoughts and concerns before any final decisions are made,” Obama said.

Obama said he is “confident that we can come up with a nominee who will gain the confidence of the Senate and the confidence of the country and the confidence of the individuals who look to the court to provide even-handed justice to all Americans.”

This story was updated at 2:08 p.m.