A key Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Monday that the president can expect a quick confirmation process for his forthcoming Supreme Court pick, provided that the nominee is qualified and not an activist.
"I can say if the president picks somebody who is clearly qualified, I think there's no question we can get that person through in a relatively short period of time," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said during an interview on the "Today Show". "I don't see any problem if the person is highly qualified. On the other hand, if he picks somebody strictly on -- if he picks an activist judge, I don't care whether the activist judge is a liberal or conservative, we ought to do everything in our power to defeat that person."
The remarks by the Utah Republican are more significant than the usual platitudes and talking points of Supreme Court speculation. Hatch has been a booster, in the past, of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, one of the frontrunners to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens -- suggesting that he'd be comfortable with an expedited confirmation should she be the pick.
"You have to admit, Elena Kagan is a brilliant woman," Hatch said during an interview on conservative North Dakota radio last May. "She is a brilliant lawyer. If he picks her, it is a real dilemma for people. And she will undoubtedly say that she will abide by the rule of law."
Kagan currently stands on a short list of potential nominees for the Stevens slot. While administration officials won't tip their hand as to the president's thinking, they're not knocking down speculation that she's the heavy favorite either. Part of her allure is that the former Harvard Law School dean is young, previously vetted, and has bipartisan appeal. But regardless of who ends up chosen, the White House wants to avoid a bitter or extended partisan fight.
"If nominated by the date [Justice] Sotomayor was nominated [May 26], we expect the nominee should be voted on by the August recess," one administration official told the Huffington Post.
Having Hatch both supportive of the Supreme Court nominee and on record saying an expedited time frame for the confirmation process would be fine, is a nice card that the White House can keep in its back pocket.
More:Hatch Supreme Court Orrin Hatch Hatch Kagan Supreme Court Nominee Hatch Confirming Supreme Court
HuffPost Politics brings you the top political stories three days a week. Learn more