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Senate Minority Leader Reid Expects Supreme Court Nomination Soon


The Democratic minority leader of the Senate says he expects to see a Supreme Court nomination this week. The Republican majority leader pledges not to even meet with a nominee, all of which indicates no one in this standoff between the White House and the Republican-led Senate is ready to blink. Emily Bazelon has been writing about the fight over this vacant seat on the Supreme Court. She's a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine. Good morning.

EMILY BAZELON: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, President Obama did sit down with a group of senators this week to talk about nominating a new justice - does not sound like he got anywhere.

BAZELON: Well, he's doing his best to put on the political heat. This is just all about politics. Is the price for obstructing Obama's nominee and refusing to even hold hearings going to be great enough that Republicans are going to see a reason to back down?

MONTAGNE: Well, still, names of possible nominees are being floated by anonymous sources. The latest is federal Judge Jane Kelly, according to your newspaper, The New York Times. Tell us about her.

BAZELON: She is a former longtime public defender, and she's from Iowa. And when she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 0 to the federal appeals court by the Senate recently, Chuck Grassley, who's the senator of - the Republicans senator from Iowa who's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee - key person in all of this. He praised Judge Kelly. And so, you know, the attractiveness of her pick for the administration is to really put the heat on Charles Grassley to say, hey, you just said that this person was well-qualified, would be an excellent judge, why can't she also be on the Supreme Court? Do you really want to deny a hearing to someone from your own state?

MONTAGNE: So - theoretically, he's up for reelection. It could be embarrassing for Grassley. On the other hand, how real are these trial balloons, these leaked names of possible nominees?

BAZELON: I think that one is real. There are a handful of judges who've been recently confirmed by an overwhelming vote by this Republican Senate and who have really stellar credentials. Which of them has a really compelling personal story so that when this turns into a battle not about process and an abstract nominee but a real person, that, you know, voters around the country are going to say, hey, wait, why isn't the Senate giving that person a hearing? That's what the president needs.

MONTAGNE: Well, just what is the sense, though, of what the president wants?

BAZELON: We know that he wants someone who is going to, you know, treat the court system with respect, who's going to be a strong judge with, you know, the kinds of values the president cares about but who's not necessarily going to be a big ideologue. President Obama does not really believe in the courts getting way out in front of the other branches of government in making social change. And so in that sense, he would say that he is planning to pick someone who is moderate.

MONTAGNE: We just have a few seconds here but if you can do it, what would the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate affect - how would it affect this drama?

BAZELON: It makes things much trickier for the Republicans. You know, people - reporters were asking them yesterday would you rather have a Supreme Court pick from Donald Trump who you are a backing away from, you're denouncing, or, you know, should you follow the process in place now and give President Obama's nominee at least a hearing?

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thank you very much.

BAZELON: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: Emily Bazelon is a fellow for creative writing at Yale Law School and a staff writer for The New York Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.