kunc-header-1440x90.png
Our Story Happens Here
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

White House Plans To Move Quickly To Nominate Supreme Court Justice

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are returning to the fierce political fight that is already underway over the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As we mentioned earlier, President Trump says he is moving aggressively to replace Ginsburg. This is what he told reporters yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think the process can go very, very fast. I'll be making my choice soon. And when the choice is made, I'll be sending it over to Mitch in the Senate. And they will do what they have to do. I think we'll have a very popular choice, whoever it may be.

MARTIN: For more on how the president plans to get his court nominee confirmed and what it could mean for this year's political campaigns, we're joined by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, welcome back. Thanks for joining us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Thank you. Yeah.

MARTIN: So President Trump said this can go very, very fast. Does the White House think they can fill Ginsburg's seat before Election Day, which is in just 44 days?

KEITH: Yeah, the message coming from the White House is that they are moving fast. And if they didn't think that they could get it done before Election Day, they would probably take more time. But what you're dealing with here are potential nominees who are not a blank slate. They have vetted many of these people before for previous vacancies. Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa have recently been confirmed to the federal judiciary. So they were vetted, and those are two of the top names out there.

The White House position here is that it is the president's duty to nominate someone just as President Obama did after Justice Scalia died in 2016. And then it is up to the Senate. But, of course, President Trump is also making it clear he wants the Senate to move fast.

MARTIN: And the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - the Republican leader - has made it clear that he also wants to move fast. Is the rest of the Republican caucus on board? And are they ready?

KEITH: Yeah. So the White House and McConnell are not moving independently here. They are moving in concert. And McConnell will be meeting with Republicans early this week with the whole caucus on Tuesday. The only thing that can really stop this is four Republican senators saying no. So far, there are only two. That's Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins who has expressed discomfort with taking up the nominee before the election, though another moderate Republican senator - who many people had been watching, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander - announced today that he has no problem with voting on a nominee on the schedule Mitch McConnell sets.

You know, part of the idea of getting a name out there quickly is that - so that no more Republican senators can take a stand on this in the abstract. But there are also risks in rushing a choice and not giving the nominee and the White House enough time to prepare for what will be an onslaught.

MARTIN: And as we've already pointed out, this isn't happening in a vacuum. It's just weeks from Election Day. And as we've been saying, this is really an election season. People have already started voting in some states amid - I have to say - a health crisis that's killed nearly 200,000 Americans. So is there any sense of how this is playing in the campaign even though it's just the beginning of this?

KEITH: Well, it certainly has changed the focus away from coronavirus from now. In politics, Supreme Court vacancies have a way of consuming every ounce of attention. For Democrats, this has brought a supercharged boost of fundraising. ActBlue, which is a fundraising platform for Democratic campaigns and causes, including Biden's campaign, raised $100 million between 8:00 p.m. Friday, when the news came out, and the end of the day yesterday.

But Democrats are also cautious because the courts have been an issue that favors Republicans in the past. And Joe Biden spoke today trying to tie the future of the court to issues like health care and climate change that are more favorable for Democrats. He also made it clear, in his own words, that he believes the winner of the election should pick the next justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: The people of this nation are choosing their future right now as they vote. To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power. And I don't believe the people of this nation will stand for it.

MARTIN: And what about the Trump campaign - as briefly as you can, Tam?

KEITH: They've already got a shirt. Instead of build the wall, it's fill the seat. They think this is going to work for them.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Tamara Keith. Tam, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.