By Justin Sink - 08/11/14 07:40 PM EDT
President Obama said Monday he needed Democrats to keep control of the Senate to ensure his Supreme Court nominees were confirmed, openly speculating to a crowd of donors that one or more of the high court's justices could soon retire.
Obama told donors that a faction within the Republican Party "thinks solely in terms of their own ideological purposes and solely in terms of, how do they hang onto power? And that's a problem. And that's why I need a Democratic Senate."
Court watchers have suggested that 81-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a consistent liberal vote who has struggled with health problems, might consider retiring before the end of President Obama's second term. Justice Stephen Breyer, 75, might also be considering retirement.
A White House official said later Monday that the president's remarks were meant only "to convey the important role the Senate would play in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy."
"They were not in reference to a specific vacancy," the official said.
Last month, a senior administration official told The Hill the White House wasn't worried about filling a potential vacancy on the high court, saying it would be politically difficult for Republicans to hold up a vote on a qualified justice.
Still, Republicans have been outraged over the move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to change the chamber's filibuster rules on lower judicial nominees, and any new court nomination would be politically charged.
Democrats, including the White House, have sought to highlight the Court's decision earlier this summer to limit the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, exempting certain religious employers.
Last month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said "the consequence of that Supreme Court ruling is, it will allow bosses to interfere with what the President believes should be the freedom that any woman has to make her own decisions about her health care."
Democrats are examining ways to address the ruling legislatively — an effort unlikely to generate much traction in the Republican-controlled House, but that could rally female and young voters ahead of November's midterm elections.
The fundraiser, at the home of Roger H. Brown, the president of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, was the president's lone scheduled event during the first week of his Martha's Vineyard vacation. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) were in attendance.
— This post was last updated at 9:32 p.m.