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Sen. Bob Casey On Democratic Approach To 'Illegitimate' Supreme Court Nomination

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we said, Republican senators are hoping to push the confirmation through before the National Election Day, which is just weeks away, while some Democrats are saying the nomination is illegitimate and that they will not meet with President Trump's nominee, including Bob Casey, the senior senator from Pennsylvania. And he is a Democrat, as we said, and he is with us now.

Senator Casey, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BOB CASEY: Thanks. Great to be with you.

MARTIN: Now, you've - you along with some other members of the Democratic Caucus have said you won't meet with President Trump's nominee. There was a similar dynamic in 2016, as we've said, when Republicans wouldn't hold hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Some wouldn't meet with him. At the time, Democrats said that wasn't fair to both the nominee and the process. How is this different?

CASEY: Well, it's different because at a time when the president should be focused on tackling the virus, which he's failed to do, and at the same time helping millions of people get back to work, he's trying to rush an appointment to the court that - to ensure that this nominee will be the deciding vote to take away the protections for preexisting conditions, which means in our state, 5.5 million people will not have that protection if the Affordable Care Act is overturned or declared unconstitutional.

So that is a near-term consequence, where you're rushing a justice through just really days before the election by the time the process is - some could make an argument that down the road, it would be more appropriate. But I think the most sensible thing for the country is that the next president in maybe the most consequential presidential election, at least my lifetime, the next president should make the decision. The process should be - should unfold after Inauguration Day.

MARTIN: Well, the Constitution doesn't say when a nomination should be undertaken, and it doesn't seem to have any provision for hypocrisy. So what's your best argument for why the process should stop? I mean, why should Democrats refuse to validate it? How would you argue this perhaps to your Republican constituents who say the Constitution doesn't speak to that?

CASEY: Yeah. Well, we're just saying to Republican senators, just be consistent with the rule that your leader enunciated back in 2016 - when, by the way, there were - was a hell of a lot more time - 10, 11 months before Election Day as opposed to just a matter of weeks. So I think most people in the country agree with that. So I'm on the side of both public opinion and, in this case, the late Justice Ginsburg, who expressed that wish. So it's the - I think it's the most reasonable position in this - in the lead-up to an election.

But the key thing here is you've got, I would argue, the - well, if it's not the most consequential case in front of the court on November 10 in the argument, it's at least among the most consequential when it comes to invalidating a law which brought health care to more than 20 million and protections to 135 million. I can't think of a more consequential matter.

And the Republicans have lost over and over again. They've lost a couple of elections over the Affordable Care Act. Now they want to rush a justice through so that that justice will be seated for the argument because if you're not there for the argument, you can't weigh in on the case. So they want her in place for that argument.

MARTIN: One of the reasons we wanted to speak to you is that you identify as a pro-life Democrat. You might be the most prominent pro-life Democrat in the Congress right now. You've said in the past that you oppose the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion around the country.

One of the reasons progressives say they oppose this nominee is that they feel that her career has basically been an exercise in figuring out how to overturn precedents, including Roe. But her supporters say that's anti-Catholic bigotry. I mean, you have a foot in both worlds, so do you think skepticism about her nomination is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry?

CASEY: No. Look. She's spoken to these issues. She's spoken to the issue of the Affordable Care Act. She's spoken about Roe. She's spoken to - about a lot of these matters, or even cases. As Nina Totenberg just reminded us from your - in your - one of your NPR articles just highlighted this - I think this was yesterday, the day before - is that Judge Coney Barrett, at least right after the 2012 ACA case, criticized Justice Roberts for his interpretation, which allowed the statute to be declared - allowed it to stay in effect.

So she's spoken to these issues before. I don't think it makes sense to most Americans coming before the court or coming before the Senate to do an exegesis about religious views and how you make determinations about public policy. My thinking on that has always been your faith can inform what you do as a public official. It can inspire what you do. But it must never dictate what you do. But I think the - I think for most Americans, the most near-term threat that they're worried about is ACA.

MARTIN: Bob Casey is a Democratic senator from Pennsylvania. He's the senior senator from Pennsylvania.

Senator Casey, thank you so much for being with us. I hope we'll talk again.

CASEY: Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF NATHAN KAWANISHI'S "UENO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.