Obama: 'Civil, Thoughtful' Hearings on New Supreme Court Justice

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President Obama met Wednesday with key senators of both parties to discuss the nomination and confirmation process of a Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

The formal nomination process for the next Supreme Court justice kicked off Wednesday, as President Obama met with Senate leaders from both parties to urge a smooth and timely confirmation process.

Last year, when the Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to the high court, the four senators sitting with him in the Oval Office on Wednesday "worked very cooperatively on what I considered to be a smooth, civil, thoughtful nomination process and confirmation process," Obama said before the meeting.

"My hope is, is that we can do the exact same thing this time," Obama added. He said the nominee's name will go to Capitol Hill by the end of May, if not sooner.

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Before the press pool was ushered out, a reporter asked Obama if he would be willing to nominate someone who did not support a woman's right to choose abortion. The president said he did not have any "litmus tests," but added, "I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights."

Obama meets key senators

The president has been holding informal phone conversations with prospective court nominees, administration officials say, and will soon reach out to other senators for their input on his court selection. The meeting Wednesday with Senate majority leader Harry Reid, minority leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy, and the committee's ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions, was not designed to be a name-floating session, but rather an opportunity to talk process.

The administration has made clear it hopes to confirm the new justice by the start of Congress's August recess. Last year, now- Justice Sotomayor was nominated on May 26 and confirmed by the August recess.

Justice John Paul Stevens is retiring at the end of the current court term early this summer, and the White House wants to give the new justice time to prepare for the next term, which begins in October. …