updated 5/17/2009 5:39:20 PM ET 2009-05-17T21:39:20

President Barack Obama named a seasoned Democratic political operative to guide his Supreme Court nominee on Capitol Hill, where the Senate's top Republican on Sunday refused to rule out an effort to block a vote.

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Stephanie Cutter is expected to leave her job as an adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and move next door to the White House, an administration official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel decisions and strategy.

Cutter, a veteran of presidential campaigns and Senate politics, is expected to coordinate the announcement and confirmation hearings for Obama's pick to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring. Democrats control the Senate, although the White House does not expect an automatic confirmation for the lifetime appointment.

Filibuster not being ruled out
Republicans are keeping all paths open. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would not rule out a filibuster. During confirmation hearings for Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, McConnell opposed using the procedural move, which could indefinitely delay votes on a nominee.

"Under the rules of the Senate, all things are possible," McConnell told "Fox News Sunday."

McConnell added that he did not know how his party would respond, given Obama has yet to announce a pick.

As a senator, Obama said that both Alito and Roberts were qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, but voted against their nominations because of their philosophical and political views.

Alito and Roberts are part of the court's conservative wing, while Souter is part of the liberal bloc. There are four reliably conservative justices and four liberals, with the right-of-center Justice Anthony Kennedy in the middle, in effect the deciding vote.

The Republican Party has only 40 senators, giving them little chance of blocking the nominee. That has not stopped conservative groups from urging senators to sharply question the judicial philosophies of the president and his nominee.

Cutter a frequent Democratic spokeswoman
Cutter will be Obama's voice to fight back during the high-volume debate on the Hill and in the media. She knows the turf well, given she coordinated the Democrats' opposition to President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees and was a frequent Democratic spokeswoman.

A former senior adviser to Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, she was Sen. John Kerry's top spokeswoman when he sought the White House in 2004. Last year, she joined Obama's campaign as an adviser and became Michelle Obama's top aide.

After Obama's election, Cutter moved to the Treasury Department, where she has advised Geithner as he has overseen a troubled economy and bailed out banks and auto companies.

The White House has not said when it will announce its choice, although officials familiar with Obama's deliberations say the president is expected to name a nominee by the end of May, or shortly after. Obama heads to Egypt, Germany and France in the first week of June; insiders expect a nominee before he leaves June 2.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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