A popular U.S. Republican governor, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, scratched himself from consideration for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, only a day after reports emerged that the White House was vetting his background for a possible appointment.
The 52-year-old Sandoval, without giving any explanation, said he told the White House that he did not wish to be considered "at this time" for the seat created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The White House says President Barack Obama is considering a list of candidates to fill the life-time job on the nine-member court. He has set no date for announcing his choice, which is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Obama's would-be appointment has quickly been engulfed in a contentious political dispute in Washington. Obama, a Democrat who has already filled two openings on the Supreme Court, says he plans to name a replacement for Scalia, adhering to the U.S. Constitution's call for presidents to make Supreme Court appointments.
But Republican leaders in the Senate say they have no intention to even consider Obama's nominee, saying the choice ought to be made by the next president, whoever wins November's national election and replaces him next January when his eight-year White House tenure ends.
The appointment is seen as especially crucial because whoever replaces Scalia could tip the ideological balance on the Supreme Court. Scalia, for 30 years a conservative stalwart on the court, was among the five-member conservative majority that often prevailed in 5-to-4 rulings over the four reliably liberal votes on the court.