Obama weighs Republican Nevada governor for US Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican and former federal judge, is being considered by President Barack Obama for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, a source close to the process said on Wednesday, as Obama sought to overcome Senate Republican resistance to any nominee.

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Obama weighs Republican Nevada governor for US Supreme Court
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks during the Genting Group's ceremonial groundbreaking for Resorts World Las Vegas on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The USD 4 billion property on the Las Vegas Strip is expected to open in 2018 on the site of the former Stardust Resort & Casino. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05: (L-R) Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval shakes hands with Chairman and CEO of the Genting Group K.T. Lim as Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak looks on during the Genting Group's ceremonial groundbreaking for Resorts World Las Vegas on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The USD 4 billion property on the Las Vegas Strip is expected to open in 2018 on the site of the former Stardust Resort & Casino. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada, center, speaks to attendees during the Faraday Future Inc. event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. CES is expected to bring a range of announcements from major names in tech showcasing new developments in virtual reality, self-driving cars, drones, wearables, and the Internet of Things. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada, center, shakes hands with Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., during a news conference at the Nevada State Capitol building in Carson City, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Tesla will build the worlds largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada, bringing a $100 billion boost to the states economy over two decades, Sandoval said. Photographer: David Calvert/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada, speaks during a news conference at the Nevada State Capitol building in Carson City, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Tesla Motors Inc. will build the worlds largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada, bringing a $100 billion boost to the states economy over two decades, Sandoval said. Photographer: David Calvert/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 30: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval smiles during the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter August 30, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Political and economic leaders are attending the summit to discuss a domestic policy agenda to advance alternative energy for the country's future. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: CEO of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas John Unwin and Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval attend the opening of The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas on December 15, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01: Attorney General of Nevada Brian Sandoval speaks during night three of the Republican National Convention September 1, 2004 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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The source, who asked not to be identified, said Sandoval met on Monday in the U.S. Capitol with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, at which time Reid asked the governor whether he would be interested in being considered for the high court job.

"He said he was interested," the source said of Sandoval, adding that "a number of people are being checked out" for the job.

An intense political fight has erupted since the Feb. 13 death of long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans are maneuvering to foil Obama's ability to choose a replacement who could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades. The Republican-dominated Senate must confirm any high court nominee.

Sandoval, 52, who is of Mexican heritage and was elected governor in 2010, was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors' Association. He spent about 30 minutes with Reid in the Democratic leader's office. The two also had talked by telephone last week, the source said.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that the Senate will not hold hearings or vote on any Supreme Court nominee until after the next president takes office in January.

Obama vowed on Wednesday to move ahead with a nominee and said Republicans would risk public ire if they blocked a qualified candidate for political motives, as well as diminishing the credibility of the high court.

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Potential replacements for Justice Scalia, SCOTUS
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Obama weighs Republican Nevada governor for US Supreme Court

Sri Srinivasan, Federal appeals court judge

(United States Department of Justice)

District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

(Photo via the United States District Court for the District of Columbia)

Loretta Lynch, the current U.S. Attorney General. 

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Paul Watford, currently a U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit.

(Photo by Bill Clark/Getty Images)

Jacquline Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American woman named to the state court in California.

(Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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Obama said he expected the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend his nominee the courtesy of a hearing and then vote on whether he or she is qualified.

"In the meantime, the American people are going to have the ability to gauge whether the person I've nominated is well within the mainstream, is a good jurist, is somebody who's worthy to sit on the Supreme Court," Obama told reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office.

"I think it will be very difficult for Mr. McConnell to explain how, if the public concludes that this person's very well qualified, that the Senate should stand in the way simply for political reasons."

Watch more coverage below:

Obama Pledges SCOTUS Nomination in SCOTUSblog

OBAMA SYMPATHETIC

The president said he understood the political predicament Republicans faced and said he had expressed sympathy in calls to their leaders. He said they were sheepish in their arguments that a nominee should not be confirmed until next year and predicted their posture would change.

"I think the situation may evolve over time. I don't expect Mitch McConnell to say that is the case today," he said.

Obama, who was meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, rarely takes questions from reporters in the Oval Office. But he was ready on Wednesday and seemed to relish striking down Republican arguments against his future nominee.

Earlier on Wednesday, in a post on the independent SCOTUSblog.com website, Obama listed his criteria for a nominee including "an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials and a record of excellence and integrity."

In an apparent nod to conservatives who decry "activist judges," Obama said his appointee "will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary's role; who understands that a judge's job is to interpret the law, not make the law."

Liberals vowed to pressure Senate Republicans into considering an Obama nomination this year, with several groups banding together to deliver to the Senate boxes of what they said contained 1.3 million signatures from citizens demanding that a confirmation process go forward after the president announces his pick.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate said the petitions being delivered were "just the beginning of the public rising up."

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Republicans "are giving a middle finger to the American people and they are giving a middle finger to this president. The American people elected Barack Obama for four years and they knew what they were doing."

The U.S. presidential election is set for Nov. 8 and Republicans want the next president to fill Scalia's vacancy, hoping a Republican will be elected.

Scalia's death left the shorthanded court with four liberals and four conservatives, with Obama's nominee positioned to change the court's ideological balance.

Obama already has appointed two Supreme Court justices during his seven years as president. The Senate confirmed his prior two nominees - Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010 - but the chamber was controlled by Obama's fellow Democrats at the time.

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