WASHINGTON -- President Reagan has decided to nominate Judge Anthony Kennedy of California to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, White House aides said Tuesday.
Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that chief of staff Howard Baker, Attorney General Edwin Meese and A.B. Culvahouse, the White House chief counsel, met Tuesday with FBI director William Sessions and an FBI team to review the results of a prelminary investigation of Kennedy.
Fitzwater alerted reporters to be at the White House for the announcement to be made around noon Wednesday. Aides said Kennedy, considered the front-runner for Reagan's third nominee, will be the president's choice to sit on the high court.
Although it is a government holiday because of Veterans Day, the press staff was alerted to come to work.
Fitzwater indicated Reagan was anxious to go ahead with the nomination once the preliminary FBI investigation was completed.
When greeting Israeli President Chaim Herzog for a state dinner Tuesday evening, Reagan all but confirmed his forthcoming nomination. When reporters shouted 'Kennedy,' he said 'you'll find out shortly.'
Asked if Kennedy was 'clean' as a result of his FBI check, Reagan said, 'I'm betting that he is.'
Reagan, along with Meese and Baker, met with Kennedy for 30 minutes Monday evening in the residence and 'discussed various issues,' which Fitzwater did not specify.
However, on Capitol Hill, two Republican senators -- Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Charles Grassley of Iowa -- apparently were resisting Kennedy's selection, and a key Democrat said there was almost no way confirmation hearings could start before January.
Helms, who threatened last month to start a filibuster should Kennedy be nominated, said Tuesday his mind remains open should the appeals court judge be chosen but he still prefers another, more conservative nominee.
'I want to hear his explanation for some of his opinions I've read,' he said of Kennedy. 'I want him to explain at least three of them.'
Grassley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he also would prefer someone else -- such as appeals court Judges Pasco Bowman of Missouri or J. Clifford Wallace of California.
'The thing I don't like about this is that the people who are committed to changing the judiciary are taking the path of least resistance,' he said.
If nominated, Kennedy -- a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento, Calif. -- would be the third man the administration has offered for elevation to the nation's highest court.
The Senate rejected Reagan's first choice, Robert Bork, 58-42 on Oct. 23 after a protracted battle over Bork's judicial philosophy. Saturday, Reagan's second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew his name after a 48-hour furor over his admission that he smoked marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s.
Bork, 61, and Ginsburg, 41, sit on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Kennedy, 51, was on the short list when the White House was searching for a replacement to Bork but was passed over when Meese championed Ginsburg, who was for one year an assistant attorney general in Meese's Justice Department.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had not talked to the White House since Ginsburg withdrew and at that time, he said, the White House acknowledged that confirmation hearings could not be completed before January.
In addition, Biden said, 'I think this administration doesn't know what it's doing and hasn't in a long time and this is more evidence of it.'
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, another committee member, said he did not believe the panel could begin hearings this year.
Leahy also said he was disturbed by what appeared to be White House efforts to run the name of the potential nominee past conservative Republicans and allow those senators to determine a 'litmus test' for the nominee.
Kennedy was expected to meet with Helms Tuesday, an unusual step in view of the fact that he has not yet been nominated and Helms is not on the Judiciary Committee.
But the White House canceled the meeting when aides realized belatedly that Kennedy had not yet touched base with members of the Judiciary Committee.
A conservative who fits into Reagan's requirements for believers in 'judicial restraint' but not as doctrinaire as Bork and Ginsburg, Kennedy was a target for a threatened filibuster by Helms when his name first came up last month.
Fitzwater said a preliminary FBI check had been completed but he expected a nomination to be made before a 'full field' FBI investigation is conducted.
'He is being examined from the background point of view,' said Fitzwater, adding that Kennedy's opinions are being studied by the Justice Department.
Fitzwater was unable to say if Kennedy was asked whether he had smoked marijuana.
Other names mentioned in the search for a third nominee were Judge William Wilkins Jr. of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge James Buckley of the same bench as Bork and Ginsburg. The brother of conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr., the latter was seen as a favorite of the right.Proprietary to the United Press International, **DATE**