White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stressed on Monday that while the president was not taking age into consideration when choosing his Supreme Court nominee, he was looking for someone who was "going to have a significant impact on the Court for quite some time."
"You have to assume whoever you pick is someone who will have great weight on the court for some time to come," he added.
In the daily press briefing, Gibbs was peppered repeatedly with questions about filling the forthcoming David Souter vacancy. He largely played coy, saying that he was not aware of contact between the White House and any specific candidates.
Gibbs did, however, provide a bit more detail as to how the search, vetting and nomination process would proceed. Before the briefing began, he noted that President Obama had spoken on the phone Monday with two Senators who will play important roles in the confirmation of his choice for the Supreme Court: newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter and former Judiciary Committee chair Orrin Hatch. The topic of conversation centered around "the upcoming [Supreme Court] pick," Gibbs said. Later he stressed that the President's preference was for someone with "a diversity of experience... [and] a diversity in background."
"But again, I think the president is looking for somebody with a record of excellence, with a record of integrity, somebody who understand the rule of law, and somebody who understands how being a judge affects everyday lives."
Later, Gibbs said that the search for a nominee could be similar to picking a vice president. "Obviously the president understands as he said here last week, just how important a decision and nomination like this are."
Asked if they would announce the choice via text message as they did with Vice President Joseph Biden, GIbbs jokingly responded: "Maybe so."
The process by which the Obama Supreme Court nominee will get confirmed by the Senate got a bit shakier with news that Sen. Jeff Sessions would ascend to ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. The Alabama Republican takes over for the far-more-moderate Specter. And because of the arcane rules of the committee, he could play a major role in dragging out the confirmation process.
On Monday, Gibbs said that there was no "specific timeline" as for when an announcement on the pick would be made. "Except to say that this is something the president believes must be done before the court starts its work again in October, which means we are on a fairly tight timeline."