Names quickly floated as possible nominees

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President Obama faces a final huge fight with Congress in nominating a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday.

A confirmation battle would fall in the heat of a presidential election year, and with huge stakes: Scalia’s successor will likely determine the court’s direction.

{mosads}Politics entered the discussion on Scalia before people on either side had much time to digest the news.

GOP presidential candidates and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately said the decision should be punted to the next president, while Democrats argued waiting until next year would be irresponsible.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a former White House contender, said a consensus nominee would be required for a successful confirmation.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin floated the name of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sri Srinivasan as one possible nominee.

Srinivasan, an Indian immigrant, is a known quantity in the Obama administration and in theory is a confirmable candidate in a GOP-controlled Senate. The upper chamber confirmed him to the federal appeals court in 2013 by a vote of 97-0.

Of course, a battle over the Supreme Court nomination would be much tougher.

Srinivasan, 48, served as a deputy solicitor general in the Obama administration before being nominated to the D.C. Circuit. He also clerked for GOP-appointed Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson III and Sandra Day O’Connor.

“Even in the malignant political atmosphere of the contemporary Senate, that margin might make him a safe pick for the Supreme Court,” Toobin wrote for The New Yorker in 2014. 

Other potential appointees suggested by Toobin that year were Ninth Circuit Judge Paul Watford, 46 — an African-American former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg —  First Circuit Judge David Barron, Eighth Circuit Judge Jane Kelly and D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia Ann Millett. 

Obama reportedly considered Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow for Justice John Paul Stevens’s vacancy in 2010. He ultimately filled the vacancy with then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan. 

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow suggested Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, a former Justice Department and Pentagon lawyer, as a Scalia replacement. 

“If I had to throw one scenario into the mix, this might be the kind of time when the president would choose a nominee who effectively has already been vetted, somebody who can kind of jump the line in terms of the United States Senate, somebody who has recently been through a rigorous confirmation process, somebody who, for example, is a Cabinet-level official in the Obama administration already,” Maddow said Saturday. 

Appointing a Cabinet-level official, however, would be non-traditional. And Johnson has come under fire from Republican lawmakers over the administration’s enforcement of immigration law. 

It’s also possible the president could name a replacement designed to drive the debate on the 2016 presidential campaign, rather than a confirmable candidate.

Scalia’s death was announced while Obama was on the golf course in Southern California with high-school friends Greg Orme, Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos. 

“This afternoon the president was informed of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” said Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. “The president and first lady extend their deepest condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.”

There will be “additional reaction” from Obama later Saturday, Schultz said.

This story was updated at 7:48 p.m.

Tags Antonin Scalia Barack Obama Jeffrey Toobin Jeh Johnson Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Rachel Maddow Sree Srinivasan Supreme Court

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