Court nomination delayed Breyer's name still prominent

June 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton yesterday put off at least until tomorrow an announcement of his choice for the Supreme Court. But his aides insisted that Judge Stephen G. Breyer was still the leading candidate.

"He's had to spend a good portion of time in the last 24 hours dealing with Somalia and other things on his schedule," said White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers. "And he'd like to take a little more time to reflect before making a decision."

Mr. Clinton met with the appeals court judge for nearly two hours at a White House lunch on Friday, and several White House officials had said they expected an announcement yesterday. But Ms. Myers said the president told aides yesterday morning that he still wanted to mull over a decision.

"The president's view is, 'I'm not going to let some arbitrary deadline drive this decision,' " she said.

Aides said Mr. Clinton met with senior advisers, including Chief of Staff Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty III, White House counsel Bernard W. Nussbaum and personnel director Bruce Lindsey after his meeting with Judge Breyer, and again late Friday night, after a White House dinner. The second meeting lasted until 12:30 a.m. yesterday.

White House officials, speaking on condition that they not be identified, said Mr. Clinton was still leaning to Judge Breyer for the seat of the retiring Justice Byron R. White, although some suggested that the president was not fully comfortable with him after their first face-to-face meeting.

Asked about such concerns, Ms. Myers said: "It's probably pretty rare that as president you walk into a room and sit down and say, 'That's a perfect choice for the Supreme Court.' I think it's more complicated than that. My sense was that the personal chemistry was pretty good."

Ms. Myers cautioned not to rule out the possibility that Mr. Clinton would still pick Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who was said to be the favorite early in the week but appeared to lose ground because of concerns that he would be difficult to replace in the Cabinet.

Judge Breyer is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston.

Senate Republicans have also made clear that they would prefer Judge Breyer over Mr. Babbitt, a former Arizona governor who some complained would be too political for the court. Judge Breyer, 54, is a centrist who Republicans said would easily win confirmation.

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