JUDY WOODRUFF: As the fight over Neil Gorsuch continued to play out in the U.S. Senate today, I sat down with Democrat Patty Murray, the four-term senator from Washington State, who is one of the majority of Democrats opposed to Gorsuch taking that vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-Wash.: What concerns me at the end of the day is a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, someone’s judgment and their beliefs in terms of protecting people’s rights in this country is extremely important. And, for me, he didn’t pass the test.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You made a particular point of speaking about his position on reproductive rights. Why is that so important to you?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: This Supreme Court will consider cases coming to it that ultimately could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would mean that women would — could possibly lose their constitutionally protected right to make their own health care choices.
To me, that is an issue I have seen in my own lifetime that has made a real impact for women, personally, their health and their economy. And I do not want this country to go backwards.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you have spoken before about your own awareness in your personal life.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: When I was in college, Roe v. Wade wasn’t the law of the land many years ago.
And I remember as good today as I did then a friend of mine, very close to, lived with her in the dorm, who went out on a date, like many young women did, and was what we today call date-raped, but we didn’t have a term for it then, ended up getting pregnant.
There was no place she could go, nobody — no protections of law, ended up finding what we would now call a back-alley doctor who performed an abortion. And as a result of a botched procedure, she, at a very young age, lost her ability to ever have a family.
I don’t want to go back to that. We now have a time when women can get the health care they need when they need it for whatever reason, and they have the protection of law to do that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: These are terrible individual situations, and you have just described one of them.
At the same time, you know that there are many Americans who feel strongly in the other way. I think the latest Pew poll showed 37 percent of Americans don’t believe in abortion under almost any circumstances.
How do you respect their point of view?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, I do respect that.
For a deeply religious purpose, there are people who do not personally believe that abortion is acceptable. I understand that. But this is a country where we don’t impose religious beliefs on the entire country. This is a country where we accept differences of opinion.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re not only opposing Judge Gorsuch. You and other Democrats are mounting a filibuster to do all you can do to prevent a vote.
That, as you know, could lead to a significant change in the rules in the Senate, which will have an even more long-lasting effect. Why go that extra step?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, this is not our choice. This is the Republicans’ choice.
Normally, our Supreme Court justices do get over 60 votes. And that’s important in this country. If you don’t get 60 votes, it means that you’re not a justice that can really be a justice for the entire land.
So, it’s an important hurdle. There are not 60 people in the Senate today who believe that we should have this nomination. And I can’t vote just because Mitch wants me to. I — that’s — my vote is really important to me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There is the argument, Senator, at the same time, even made by other Democrats, who are saying, Democrats shouldn’t push this to the wall on this vote, the argument being the Democrats should wait to cut a deal of some sort of with the Republican leadership to say, we are going to go along with this one, but the next time, we are going to preserve the rule as it is now.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: That’s a nice conversation, but I think Mitch McConnell showed his cards over a year ago.
I think he sent a very strong signal then that his goal was to put someone on the Supreme Court that he felt was much more conservative. So, I don’t expect that, if somehow a deal could be made where Democrats could get over their feeling that this wasn’t the right person and give a yes vote, that, in the next instance, that he wouldn’t change the rules anyway.
So, you stand up for your principles here. And that’s what we’re standing up for.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re learning this morning that the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence stepping aside from his role running the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election last year.
What does that say to you? Does that now give you confidence that this investigation will be conducted fairly on the part of the Congress?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, I think it’s a very important step in the right direction, from what I know at this point, because this is a very important topic in this country today.
If we have a foreign country, which it appears that we do, interfering in an election in any way, we need to know that, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that never happens again.
If the bigger questions of collusion or whatever from this administration are true, this country needs to know it and action needs to be taken.
It has to be done in a bipartisan way for it to be credible in this country. And Nunes was standing in the way of that because of his actions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, you have worked really closely with Speaker Ryan in the past on a number of difficult legislative issues. How do you think he’s doing right now?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: I think he has an incredibly difficult job. I don’t envy him his job.
But my advice to him would be, do what you have done in the past that helps you be successful. Reach out and find Democrats and find bipartisan solutions to the challenges that you have, and that’s how you can get things done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Patty Murray, thank you very much.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Thank you.