President Obama will travel to his home town of Chicago on Thursday to deliver an address on the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Obama will give the speech at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a professor before entering elected office.
The trip was announced Friday by presidential counselor Brian Deese, the White House point man on the Supreme Court vacancy, at a Politico-sponsored breakfast event in Washington.
Also adding to the significance of the venue is that Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia after his death in February, was raised in a Chicago suburb.
Asked by Politico’s Mike Allen whether Obama will “put on his law professor hat a little bit,” Deese said, “As a general rule, unless the president is going to a sporting event or a baseball game, we tend to keep hats off of his head.”
“His roots are as a professor, and his home base was the University of Chicago, so I think that he will really enjoy getting to interact with students. But this is part of his desire to continue speaking to the American people about this issue,” Deese said. “The stakes are so high, and he’s very committed to trying to make the case in a straightforward way that the Supreme Court needs to stay above politics, and whatever challenges and whatever tensions we have in our politics, we as a country need to commit to keeping the Supreme Court above it.”
A White House official later emphasized the ties that Garland and Obama have to Chicago. Garland grew up in Lincolnwood, Ill., where his father ran a business and his mother was an active volunteer. Obama moved to the South Side of Chicago after college in 1985 to work as a community organizer. After attending Harvard Law School, he returned and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago from 1992 until 2004, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Last week, Vice President Biden gave a law-school address of his own on the topic at Georgetown Law Center, calling on his experience as a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge Republican senators to hold hearings and a vote on Garland’s nomination action.
The White House official said Obama would address similar themes, saying he “will continue to make the case for why Judge Garland — and the American people — deserve for the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibility and give this eminently qualified nominee a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.”
The Obama aides who also participated in the Politico event Friday said they were confident Garland would overcome the Republican opposition to his confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) have insisted that Scalia’s seat should be filled by Obama’s successor.
While only three Republican senators say they support hearings on Garland’s confirmation, let alone votes, Democrats have pointed to the decisions of more than a dozen who have agreed to a courtesy meeting with Garland, who is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“It will become increasingly difficult for them not to meet with him,” said White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston. “Let’s have a hearing. Let the people take a look at him. Let the senators ask any questions they want to ask. . . . Let the American people see him and make a decision about whether they support him. I think if they see him, they’ll support him and he will be confirmed.”
Following his Chicago speech, Obama will travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco for fundraising events.
Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled Justice Antonin Scalia’s name.