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Members of Congress React To Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Meanwhile, last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court will get a vote on the floor of the Senate. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is with us. Thanks for being here.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Did Senator McConnell offer any additional details on how he plans to handle the confirmation hearings and the votes on any replacement for Justice Ginsburg?

SNELL: He did not give any sort of a timeline. He simply said that the nominee, whoever that person is, will get a vote on the Senate floor. You know, this is part of a broader goal for the Senate that McConnell has talked about frequently. He has pledged to remake the federal bench. And they've approved more than 200 judges since Trump took office. Now, if President Trump announced a nominee, say, on Monday, it would still likely take weeks, if not months to move a nomination through the entire process. There's a whole vetting process that needs to happen. And typically, in the times before the coronavirus, that meant individual in-person meetings between the nominee and basically every senator. And, you know, then there will be hearings. And it could easily stretch until after the election.

SIMON: Notably, in 2016, Senator McConnell blocked President Obama's nominee to replace Justice Scalia, who died in February that election year. How does he explain - or does he? - vowing to approve Trump's nominee now before she or he is even known with just six weeks to the election?

SNELL: Now, McConnell was very explicit about this. He said in his statement that the difference is that there was a divided government in 2016 and that his party, Republicans, were elected in that year to confirm a president's nominees. And then they expanded their majority in the Senate in 2018. And he says that moving forward with a nominee would be simply following through on that promise. And he is getting support from some key senators, as you mentioned, Senator Ted Cruz is also one of the people on the list potentially to be one of the nominees from President Trump but also from Senator Martha McSally, who is up in a very difficult reelection bid in Arizona. And he's also getting support from other Republican leaders who are essentially repeating his exact phrasing about why they would move forward.

You know, the issue - the Supreme Court is really going to energize both sides of this, conservatives and liberals, who want to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a nominee who backs their particular judicial philosophy. And this has energized Democrats tremendously. Donations are already pouring in. Democrats' online fundraising platform took in more than $20 million in just a few hours last night.

SIMON: Of course, Republicans control the Senate. But are there any Republican senators who might disagree with what Senator McConnell is proposing?

SNELL: A lot of that comes down to who the president nominates. You know, there are two senators who are most likely to disagree here, and that's Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins in Maine. They're both pro-choice, and they've both expressed some skepticism in the past about voting for a Supreme Court nominee this close to an election. That said, you know, opinions can change depending upon who's nominated. And it would be a serious test for some Republican senators who are up for reelection in swing states or, you know, in otherwise tough reelection bids, people like Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. But I would note that most of those senators in this position tend to be very loyal to the president when it comes to actually voting.

SIMON: Confirmation battles for Supreme Court nominees in recent years have frequently been contentious. And, of course, this comes so close to a contentious election. What kind of pressure do you think will be brought to bear on the Senate going ahead?

SNELL: There will be tremendous pressure because there's a huge political risk here at the White House and control of the Senate line, the balance in November. You know, Democrats are already discussing eliminating the filibuster if they take the Senate and the White House. And that accelerated rapidly overnight. And liberal groups like Demand Justice are already saying that any nominee from President Trump would be fundamentally illegitimate. And conservative groups are saying that the court must be at full strength before the election.

SIMON: NPR's congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell, thanks so much.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.