WASHINGTON – President Bush will name his selection for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday night.
FOX News Channel will carry the announcement live at 9 p.m. EDT.
Earlier in the day, Bush was cagey about whether he'd name his pick on Tuesday.
"I do have an obligation to think about people from different backgrounds, but who share the same philosophy, people who will not legislate from the bench," Bush said when asked by reporters Tuesday during a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. "I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is ... I'm confident about where we are in the process."
Two Republican sources very close to the Supreme Court nomination process told FOX News that the groundwork had been laid for a public disclosure, but the timing of the announcement was up to Bush.
The name at the top of the list appears to be that of Judge Edith "Joy" Clement (search), who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. Activists have already prepared a video testimonial from long-time lawyer friends of Clement.
FOX News has learned that Clement has already been interviewed by Vice President Dick Cheney, a possible sign that she is the choice for the high court.
White House officials have refused to discuss the names of top prospects being considered to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search), who was the first woman on the court.
Bush Poring Over 'Curriculum Vitae'
Officials said the White House had contacted Republican senators it hoped would serve as advocates for the nominee in media interviews following an announcement. Former Sen. Fred Thompson was selected by the president to help shephard his candidate through the confirmation process.
Democrats scoured the rulings and writings of leading contenders, including Clement, a 57-year-old jurist who was confirmed on a 99-0 vote by the Senate when she was elevated to the appeals court in 2001.
Already, a memo was issued by the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee giving a heads-up of Clement's record.
"Edith Clement had a record before her last confirmation hearing, and she has continued to develop this record since joining the Fifth Circuit. Members of the Judiciary Committee will carefully review the record she has developed since her last hearing," reads the memo.
The memo goes on to categorize "issues of concern," listing the issues as: "Limited Constitutional Rights," "Restricts Access to Court," "Cozy With Corporate Interests/Regular Attendee of Judicial Junkets," "Imposes Her Views Above Jury Verdicts," "Endorses Activist Courts," "Opposed Environmental Protection of Endangered Species" and "Hostile to Minority Rights."
One source close to the selection process said Bush was determined not to be accused by Democrats of trying to push through a nomination in a short period of time; naming a candidate sooner rather than later would give the Senate more time to deliberate on the candidate.
Confirmation hearings could begin in September, after Congress returns from its traditional August recess. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (search), R-Pa., was called to the White House on Monday. Specter, who would lead the confirmation process in the Senate, has said he hopes Bush selects a moderate jurist.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (search), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he has not received a call from the White House regarding a court nominee. Asked whether he's satisfied with the level of consultation from the White House, the Vermont lawmaker said, "Well, there has been some reaching out to Democrats but certainly not to the extent we saw during the Reagan or Clinton administrations."
One Democratic judiciary aide said that the president and Democrats have not had "meaningful consultation" on a nominee. A Democratic leadership aide added that just because Clement was approved unanimously last time doesn't mean she'll have it easy the second time around, if in fact, she's the president's pick.
During a press conference on immigration reform on Tuesday, Republican Sens. Jon Kyl, of Arizona, and John Cornyn, of Texas, said Bush had gone above and beyond the usual process in consulting with senators.
"My guess would be that when historians write about this, there's been more consultation by President Bush on this occasion than ever before in the history of the republic," said Kyl.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., one of the so-called "Gang of 14" senators who crafted an agreement that called for the use of a judicial filibuster only in "extreme circumstances," said the president was in a good position to send a conservative judge to the Senate for confirmation.
Democrats expect a conservative to be named, Graham explained, since Bush campaigned on that promise in 2004.
Graham noted that simply being conservative was "no longer an extraordinary circumstance" as defined by the "Gang of 14" agreement.
The "Gang of 14" avoided a virtual deadlock in the Senate a few months ago over some of Bush's more conservative federal-court nominees. As Democrats threatened filibusters, Republicans led by Frist countered with the "nuclear option," which would have changed Senate rules to eliminate filibusters for good.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the tone I hear in the Senate," Graham told FOX News. "Bottom line is that the president is in the best position since I've been here in 2002 to send a nominee to the Senate, who is conservative, who will be confirmed by the United States Senate."
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who also is part of the "Gang of 14," said he expects that centrist group to meet to discuss the nominee on Wednesday or Thursday.
Republicans, especially, will be looking for a vote one way or the other.
"I think he deserves an up or down vote based on whoever he nominates," Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., told FOX News. "I have great confidence in the president that he will appoint someone he believes is the kind of person and will do the kind of job that a Supreme Court justice is supposed to."
Interest Groups Watch Carefully
Interest groups say another female candidate thought to be under consideration was Edith Hollan Jones (search), who also serves on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and is considered a favorite of the Christian right.
Clement, who is considered less ideological than Jones, was among nearly a dozen judges Bush nominated to the bench in May of 2001, and her confirmation was relatively speedy. A Jones nomination would likely lead to a fight with many Democrats, who have claimed that Bush has nominated too many judges who they consider to be out of America's mainstream.
"I hope that the president will choose a consensus nominee, who can bring the nation together, as Justice O'Connor herself did, rather than further divide us," Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said Tuesday.
"To reach that result, consultation must be more than a one-way street. No one is suggesting that senators co-nominate candidates for the Supreme Court. But for members of the Senate to provide advice to the president, there must be a real discussion and a two-way conversation about specific candidates … the result will be a distinguished nominee who is acceptable to the vast majority of the American people, and who will easily be confirmed."
Clement is more likely to be seen as a relative moderate, much like O'Connor.
The thought of Clement on the bench also has eased fears among abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court, "has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion" and that "the law is settled in that regard."
Still, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that Clement's record raises "seriously troubling" questions about her commitment to protecting personal freedom. "Unless she was able to put those concerns to rest in Senate hearings, pro-choice Americans would oppose her nomination," Keenan said.
Clement's statements also are causing concern in anti-abortion circles. "We are looking to see in what context Judge Clement made those statements and do they give a window into her thinking on Roe and other decisions," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. "If we do not feel that Judge Clement is the kind of justice we would be comfortable with, and we meaning the pro-family, pro-life community, we would have no problem working aggressively against her confirmation."
At Clement's office in New Orleans, a man who identified himself as a law clerk said the judge was not available. "That's what I've been instructed to say," he told a caller who asked if she were in Washington.
Other names thought to be under consideration were: Maura Corrigan, a judge on the Michigan Supreme Court; Cecilia M. Altonaga, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Florida; Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor; Karen Williams from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.; Janice Rogers Brown, recently confirmed by the Senate for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; and Priscilla Owen, who was just confirmed for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other possible candidates are conservative federal appellate court judges Samuel Alito, J. Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, John Roberts Jr., Emilio Garza and J. Harvie Wilkinson III; and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.
"It could come any time this week," said Manuel Miranda, chairman of the conservative Third Branch Conference (search). He said he believes the White House has shifted its focus to female candidates, which would exclude Bush’s friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, from the nomination.
Miranda said he would like to see a Hispanic named to the court, but it might make more sense to name a woman so that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not the only woman on the nation's highest court.
"I think, at this point, a woman politically is much more advantageous," Miranda said.
Sean Rushton, director of the conservative Committee for Justice (search), said that while his group is "ready for it to be any minute," making the announcement next week would give liberals like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a little less time to push public opinion.
"If Ted Kennedy is not anywhere near a microphone when the nominee is announced, that is an advantage," Rushton said.
FOX News' Julie Asher, Major Garrett, Wendell Goler, Brian Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.