Obama, who already has named two female justices to the nine-member court, has the opportunity to leave a broad mark on the nation's highest judicial panel. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to block any nomination in an election year, saying that the next president should have the chance to make the selection.
The issue already has become embroiled in the 2016 campaign, with candidates in both the Republican and Democratic races weighing on Saturday.
Obama's remarks came after the White House scrambled to arrange an unscheduled statement from the president, who had been playing golf at the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta. Obama is here for several days of leisure ahead of a two-day summit with Southeast Asian leaders starting Monday at the Sunnylands retreat in Rancho Mirage.