PRESIDENT Barack Obama will announce his nominee to the United States’ Supreme Court at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, he said in a statement released by the White House, setting the stage for a political showdown with the Republicans who control the Senate.
Obama is likely to announce one of two federal appeals court judges, Sri Srinivasan or Merrick Garland, as his choice, a source familiar with the selection process told Reuters. Both Srinivasan and Garland are seen as having unique attributes that could weigh heavily in Obama’s decision.
Obama has been searching for a replacement for long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.
“I’ve made my decision: Today, I will announce the person I believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court,” Obama said in the statement.
Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court. Senate confirmation is required for any nominee to join the bench.
Without Scalia, the nine-member Supreme Court is evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. An Obama appointment could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades.
Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the Nov. 8 presidential election, want the next president, who takes office in January, to make the selection.
Billionaire Donald Trump is the leading Republican presidential candidate. Obama’s former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is the front-runner on the Democratic side.
Srinivasan, 49, and Garland, 63, serve together on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That appeals court has served as a springboard to the Supreme Court for several justices including Scalia in recent decades.
Srinivasan, who was born in India and grew up in Kansas, would be the first Asian-American and first Hindu on the high court. Obama appointed him to the appeals court in 2013. The Senate confirmed him in a 97-0 vote.
He could appeal to the president’s long-declared interest in bringing more diversity to the bench.
Srinivasan has served in the Justice Department under Democratic and Republican presidents and worked as a clerk to the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointee.
Garland, who has earned praise from lawmakers of both parties, is the chief judge of the Washington appeals court, where he has served since being appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 vote. Prior to that, he served in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.