Social conservatives were likely none-to-pleased on Wednesday, when the new ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions, said that he could see himself voting for a pro-choice nominee for the Supreme Court.
In an appearance on Fox News, the Alabama Republican said he did not "believe in a litmus test," and was comfortable with a judge who had "a different view on abortion than I have." Such a judge, he added, could "still receive my vote."
Asked, specifically, if a pro-choice nominee would could potentially get his backing once he or she was brought to the committee, Sessions replied: "yes"
"I would like to know how they analyze the logic behind Roe vs. Wade," he said. "If they are faithful to the law, then we can get along pretty well."
The jurisprudence and politics of the senator's remarks provide two very interesting and different story lines. For starters, Sessions could (and probably will) qualify his remark by saying he would only support a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee who believed that the topic should be addressed by the states. Indeed, Sessions added, at the end of his Fox News appearance that "the question would be whether they are activist or not."
Politically, however, it's hard to see how the social conservatives who get so geared up for nomination fights find comfort in one of the most influential Republicans in this battle ceding such ground.
UPDATE: It extends beyond the abortion debates.
Earlier in the day, Sessions said he was not "inclined to think that" a nominee's sexuality was "an automatic disqualification." Several of Obama's potential choices are openly gay.
"I may disagree with some legal opinion on those issues," Sessions said, "but I think fundamentally it will be up to the president to submit somebody who would unite the country and would be a clear statement of a mainstream judge who commits himself to the law."
The openness did not hold true for Sessions' Republican colleague, Sen. John Thune.
"I know the administration is being pushed, but I think it would be a bridge too far right now," said the South Dakota Republican. "It seems to me this first pick is going to be a kind of important one, and my hope is that he'll play it a little more down the middle. A lot of people would react very negatively."