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Obama selects aide to guide Supreme Court nominee

WASHINGTON — A seasoned Democratic political operative will guide President Barack Obama's eventual Supreme Court nominee on Capitol Hill, where the Senate's top Republican on Sunday refused to rule out a filibuster.

Stephanie Cutter is expected to leave her job as an adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and move next door to the White House, an administration official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel decisions and strategy.

Cutter, a veteran of presidential campaigns and Senate politics, is expected to coordinate the announcement and confirmation hearings for Obama's pick to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring. Democrats control the Senate, although the White House does not expect an automatic confirmation for the lifetime appointment.

Republicans are keeping all paths open. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would not rule out a filibuster. During confirmation hearings for Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, McConnell opposed using the procedural move, which could indefinitely delay votes on a nominee.

"Under the rules of the Senate, all things are possible," McConnell told Fox News Sunday.

McConnell added that he did not know how his party would respond, given Obama has yet to announce a pick. The GOP has only 40 senators, giving them little chance of blocking the nominee. That hasn't stopped conservative groups from urging senators to sharply question the judicial philosophies of the president and his nominee.

Cutter will be Obama's voice to fight back during the high-volume debate on the Hill and in the media. She knows the turf well; she coordinated the Democrats' opposition to President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees and was a frequent Democratic spokeswoman.

The White House hasn't said when it will announce its nominee, although officials familiar with Obama's deliberations say the president is expected to name a choice about the end of May, before he heads to Egypt, German and France the first week of June.

Obama selects aide to guide Supreme Court nominee 05/17/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 17, 2009 10:41pm]
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