Top Senate Republican: Obama Plans to Nominate ‘Moderate’ Justice

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is telling the media that President Barack Obama told him that he plans to nominate a moderate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

This comes after some mixed signals, in which Obama said he would not appoint a moderate, followed by a report that a Republican governor was being vetted.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who also serves as the Senate's president pro tempore, is surrounded by reporters on the way to a meeting of the GOP leadership as lawmakers rush to wrap up their work and pass a funding bill to avert a government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Hatch, the senior Republican in the Senate and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Politico that he and Obama had a cordial conversation at the White House Wednesday. “I saw him yesterday, and he told me he’ll send somebody that’ll be moderate,” Hatch said. “And, we’ll wait and see. It will be interesting to see.”

Hatch said he was at the White House for another event and the president asked him to stay for a 15-minute meeting. The senator described the conversation as “very friendly” and said he listened to Obama’s “very Democratic argument.”

“I don’t like some of the things that he does but you can’t help but like him as a person,” Hatch told Politico. “I just listened. Really didn’t say hardly anything. He’s always been very nice to me.”

Hatch still supports Senate Republican leadership to block any nomination until after a new president takes office.

During a press conference last week, a reporter asked Obama, “Should we interpret your comments just now that you are likely to choose a moderate nominee?” Obama snapped, “No.” The president added, “I don’t know where you found that. You shouldn’t assume anything about the qualifications of the nominee other than they’re going to be well qualified.”

However, on Wednesday, the Washington Post first reported that the White House was vetting Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, a former federal district judge nominated by President George W. Bush, to replace Scalia.