WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's search for a Supreme Court nominee has been narrowed to two or three choices, sources say.
Mr. Clinton is reportedly looking closely at U.S. Appeals Judge Stephen G. Breyer of Massachusetts, U.S. District Judge Jose A. Cabranes of Connecticut and federal Appeals Judge Jon O. Newman of Hartford, Conn. A White House official said last night that Mr. Clinton is expected to announce his decision next week.
The politically beleaguered president reportedly is eyeing Judge Breyer because the Boston judge would have widespread Senate support in both parties, a source said. Judge Breyer was formerly chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of Supreme Court nominations, and is well known by most of the senators on the committee.
"Breyer could pass the Senate 100-to-1," said a source.
Mr. Clinton, who is under fire for an array of problems, wants to avoid a political fight on his Supreme Court nominee so he can focus his attention on the budget and health care.
A source said Mr. Clinton is particularly anxious to avoid a fight similar to that which occurred over the last Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. Nominated by President Bush, Mr. Thomas was approved only after a bitter fight in the Senate.
"The list is extremely narrow," a White House official said last night, referring to the names of possible nominees.
One person with close ties to Mr. Clinton said last night he understood that the list had been narrowed to just Judges Breyer and Newman. Others said the list contains at least three names, including Judge Cabranes. The sources stressed that it was always possible that a new name would be added if something crops up to eliminate the top contender.
The judges are on a list of recommendations prepared by Mr. Clinton's top aides, who are operating with the input of Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary. It is always possible that the president will add a name to the list on his own.