Attorney General Loretta Lynch has asked that the White House not consider her for the open seat on the Supreme Court, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said Lynch has decided “the limitations inherent in the nomination process would curtail her effectiveness in her current role.”
Newman added: “Given the urgent issues before the Department of Justice, she asked not to be considered for the position.
“While she is deeply grateful for the support and good wishes of all those who suggested her as a potential nominee, she is honored to serve as attorney general, and she is fully committed to carrying out the work of the Department of Justice for the remainder of her term.”
The announcement on Tuesday winnows the field of possible contenders to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose unexpected death last month sent a shockwave across Washington and threatened to dramatically alter the balance on the highest court in the nation.
The vacancy leaves the court in a deadlock, with four justices each on the court's liberal and conservative wings.
Republican lawmakers in the Senate have vowed to reject any court nominee from President Obama. Only after a new president enters office next year, they insist, should a replacement for Scalia be considered.
The stance, which has been harshly condemned by Democrats, has raised the likelihood that whomever Obama does nominate for the position would be headed toward a political firing squad without any chance of confirmation.
No. 2 Senate Republican John CornynJohn CornynSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Senators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses MORE (Texas) this week said that the nominee would “bear some resemblance to a piñata.”
"What I don't understand is how someone who actually wants to be confirmed to the Supreme Court would actually allow themselves to be used by the administration in a political fight that's going to last from now until the end of the year," he told reporters in the Capitol on Monday.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters MORE (D-Nev.) claimed that GOP lawmakers have “been listening to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE too much” and are “acting like big, tough people.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest similarly said Republicans “are digging in even further on an unreasonable position of not giving that person any sort of fair hearing and vowing to tear that person down.”
Lynch is the second potential Supreme Court justice nominee to have taken themselves out of the running in recent weeks.
Last month, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) withdrew his name from consideration after reports surfaced that he was being vetted as a possible selection. The choice would have put Senate lawmakers in both parties in a politically tricky spot by forcing Republicans to ignore the nomination of a member of their own party.
Lynch, who was approved by the Senate as attorney general last year with the support of 10 GOP lawmakers, was listed on multiple shortlists for the nomination. Had she been selected and confirmed, Lynch would have been the first African-American woman on the high court and would have raised the number of women justices to four — an all-time high.
Other names that have been floated as possible Supreme Court nominees include Judges Merrick Garland, Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Ann Millett, all of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Other possible contenders include District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul Watford and Jane Kelly of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kelly has been praised by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Small ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Iowa).
In an op-ed on the influential SCOTUSblog last month, Obama wrote that he was looking for a candidate with a “sterling record,” a “deep respect for the judiciary’s role” and an “understanding of the way the world really works.”
—Updated at 6:53 p.m.