WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is likely to announce either Judge Sri Srinivasan or Judge Merrick Garland as his pick for U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the announcement could come as early as Wednesday, a source familiar with the selection process said Tuesday.
The team of advisers helping to vet candidates, line up their public supporters and answer the president’s questions had finished its work as of Tuesday, the source said.
Obama is searching for a replacement for long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court.
Senate Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the Nov. 8 presidential election, want the next president, who takes office in January, to make the selection.
Without Scalia, the Supreme Court is evenly split with four liberals and four conservatives. An Obama appointment could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades.
Srinivasan, 49, and Garland, 63, serve together on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That appeals court has served as a springboard to the Supreme Court for several justices including Scalia in recent decades.
Srinivasan, who was born in India and grew up in Kansas, would be the first Asian-American and first Hindu on the high court. Obama appointed him to the appeals court in 2013. The Senate confirmed him in a 97-0 vote.
Srinivasan has served in the Justice Department under Democratic and Republican presidents and worked as a clerk to the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointee.
Garland, who has earned praise from lawmakers of both parties, is the chief judge of the Washington appeals court, where he has served since being appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 vote. Prior to that, he served in the Justice Department under Clinton.
Last week, a source familiar with the selection process said the White House had narrowed the selection to three candidates: Srinivasan, Garland and Paul Watford, 48, a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Watford is an African-American and the U.S. Supreme Court has had only two black justices in its history.