Washington gears up for Supreme Court nomination battle

(NBC) – Could Hillary Clinton be nominated to the Supreme Court?  That was the latest speculation out of Washington. The White House quickly threw that idea into the rumor bin.

There are plenty of other candidates to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. The question is: Who will President Obama choose and when?

Obama's spokesman told reporters they'll have many weeks to play the name game.

The retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens leaves Obama with a chance to put another mark on the highest court in the land. It also sets the stage for an extraordinary confirmation battle on Capitol Hill.

"If he picks an activist judge, I don't care whether the activist judge is liberal or conservative, we ought to do everything in our power to defeat that person," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

If the president replaces the liberal justice with a liberal nominee republicans are promising a fight. Democrats aren't giving any ground, either.

"I'm going to assume that everybody is going to be responsible and we can move forward with this nominee and we should," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

The guessing game is in high gear among the possible nominees: Elena Kagan, U.S. Solicitor General, Federal Appeals Judges Diane Wood of Chicago and Merrick Garland of Washington, DC and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

For a brief time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's was mentioned but swiftly ruled out by the White House.

"Obama may surprise us all and pick somebody that none of us have been thinking of. Presidents have done that before," said Georgetown University Professor Paul Rothstein.

With confirmation hearings expected this summer the president doesn't have much time to choose the justice who will change the face if not the direction of the Supreme Court.

Nomination fights, of course, are nothing new.

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