WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dick Durbin suggested Monday that President Obama nominate a Supreme Court pick who reflects America, possibly even from his hometown of Chicago, but no said no matter who is chosen it's going to be a bumpy ride through the Senate.
"I tell people to fasten their seat belts and prepare for the worst. It's going to be a rocky process," said Durbin, D-Ill., one of Obama's closest allies on Capitol Hill. "But in the end I believe that if the president comes up with someone of highest integrity, with the judicial temperament ... that that person will ultimately be confirmed."
Obama reached out to the key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, a first step in what could be a long and intense nomination process to fill the seat of soon-to-be-retired Justice David Souter.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House does not have a specific timeline for the nomination process, but the White House clearly wants the Senate to take action before the Supreme Court begins its next term on the first Monday of October.
"This is something the president believes must be done before the court starts its work again in October, which means we're on a fairly tight timeline to probably get something done before Congress gets out of town in August," said Gibbs.
He amended his remarks, saying that by late July, "obviously this process has to be a decent ways down the field."
Congress is out of session from approximately August 8 until Sept. 7.
Obama placed phone calls to Sens. Arlen Specter, who recently switched from Republican to Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, both members of the judiciary panel. Gibbs did not have any details about the calls. But on Sunday, Hatch said he would not make any recommendations to the president unless the president reached out to him.
On Monday, Hatch said during their call, he urged Obama "against choosing a judicial activist" for the vacancy and advised the president "to choose a nominee who is more in step with mainstream America and would uphold the rule of law."
Hatch said that Obama assured him "that was his intention, that he would appoint a pragmatist, not a radical, to this important position."
To date, the president has not interviewed any potential nominee for the job. Gibbs said he did not know if White House General Counsel Greg Craig had begun his own interviews, but did say that the process would be similar to that of Obama's vice presidential search, in other words, not "one that is overly public."
Many liberal groups are urging Obama to name a woman and/or Hispanic to the high court. Gibbs declined to make such a promise.
"I am sure he will look at candidates for diversity in background," Gibbs said. But he said Obama mainly is looking for "somebody with a record of excellence, somebody with a record of integrity, somebody who understands the rule of law, and somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans' everyday lives."
Gibbs hinted that Obama might prefer a relatively young person who might spend decades on the Supreme Court, where justices have lifetime appointments. Liberals note that former President George W. Bush's two conservative appointees ---- Samuel Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John Roberts ---- are in their 50s, and could strongly influence American society and jurisprudence for many years.
"I think you always assume, rightly so, that whomever you choose is going to have a significant impact on the court for quite some time," Gibbs said.
He said that before Obama was inaugurated, his transition team "began identifying a long time ago candidates for what we assumed might be an eventual pick for the Supreme Court."
Asked whether the White House would announce the Supreme Court pick via text message the way the campaign did with the announcement of Joe Biden as the vice presidential nominee, Gibbs joked, "Maybe so."
FOX News' Daniela Sicuranza contributed to this report.