The framework of the forthcoming battle over Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick began to materialize on Sunday, as a range of Republican officials sent out trial-balloon criticisms of a pick that is likely weeks away from being announced.
Talk of a filibuster was not directly addressed or, for that matter, ruled out. Republicans on the talk show circuit repeatedly noted that Obama himself had voted against cloture on the nomination of Samuel Alito in late January 2006.
"Well, I'm not a payback type of guy," Sen. Richard Shelby declared during an appearance on CNN. "I think you have to keep moving. On the other hand, a lot of us were aware of then Senator Obama's votes against Alito and I believe against Roberts. But I think Obama has -- President Obama has got some strong cards to deal. I hope he makes a great choice for the court."
Generally, however, Republicans tried to duck discussion of holding up a Supreme Court nominee in committee or Senate - in the process, spurring speculation that they would do just that.
"They need to get back to interpreting the law, and ultimately too many times lately they point to international law instead of the U.S. Constitution," Sen. John Ensign said when asked about holding up the nominee, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. "We need to get back to what the Supreme Court is supposed to be about."
As for the president's process of selecting a nominee, GOPers were already sounding alarm. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who formerly chaired the Judiciary Committee, said that the broad standards that Obama had laid out for a Court pick -- including the quality of empathy -- were tantamount to committing himself to an "activist judge."
"Well, it's a matter of great concern," said Hatch on ABC's This Week. "If he's saying that he wants to pick people who will take sides, he has also said a judge has to be a person of empathy? What does that mean? Usually that's a code word for an activist judge. But he also said that he's going to select judges on the basis of their personal politics, their personal feelings, their personal preferences. Now, you know, those are all code words for an activist judge who is going to, you know, be partisan on the bench."
On the whole, every GOPer who took to the cameras on Sunday granted the president the right to choose someone who was of a liberal judicial mindset. "Elections have consequence," acknowledged former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But they pledged to put up a fight if the person was not of the requisite intellectual and legal qualifications.
"The key thing," added Romney, "and the place we draw the line is this: is a individual who will follow the constitution or the law or is this an individual who believes in making the law? And if it's the latter, I think we should stand up and scream loud and hard."