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After RBG’s death, a partisan battle over SCOTUS seat

President Trump announced he intends to nominate a woman for Justice Ginsburg’s seat and several Republican Senators, who in 2016 opposed filling a SCOTUS seat in an election year, are supporting a vote. The contentious issue of the SCOTUS seat, which helped the Trump campaign in 2016, has galvanized the liberal base six weeks before the election. Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the politics of the court battle and what's ahead for the presidential candidates, I spoke with NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    Jeff, what do we know and not know about how and when this confirmation process will happen?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    What the president said yesterday was he intends to send up a nominee very quickly. He said it would be a woman. What we don't know is when Senate Leader Mitch McConnell intends to take this nomination up, which he does. There's very little time in the Senate calendar between now and Election Day. And there's been some speculation that the vulnerable public and incumbents might not want to cast a vote before Election Day.

    Now, just in the last day, several of those endangered Republicans have said they're signed on with McConnell: Joni Ernst in Iowa, Tillis in North Carolina, McSally in Arizona. And so what we don't know is, are there four Republicans in the Senate, apart from Susan Collins, who said she would prefer to wait, Lisa Murkowski, who said she doesn't think there should be a vote till the new president is chosen. Chuck Grassley, former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also said that. But that leaves only three if they all do that.

    Many, many other Republicans have done a complete 180 around their position back in 2016 when they said no vote in a presidential year. And so it's going to be up to McConnell in the next day or two to decide does he want to try a vote now or does he want to wait till after the election and do it in a lame duck session?

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And things could get contentious. Democrats wouldn't like this idea.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    If Trump wins in November, this issue essentially goes away. Because even if the Democrats were to wind up taking the Senate, the lame duck Republicans in November could say, look, the people chose Trump, it's his nomination, and fine.

    If Trump were to lose and the Senate would go Democratic and the lame duck Republicans still said, we're going to confirm Trump's nominee in late November, then you're talking about whatever analogy you like. DEFCON-1, Armageddon on steroids. Chuck Schumer said everything's on the table. That could mean expanding the size of the Supreme Court, it could mean giving statehood to Puerto Rico and perhaps the District of Columbia for four more Democratic senators. That means the entire framework of our system is being essentially reduced to who has the power.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    It seems like this will galvanize people on both sides to get out and vote.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Four years ago, it was clear that the issue of a Supreme Court Justice was helping Trump. It got all the social conservatives who were worried about Trump's personal behavior back in line. And they were mostly worried because Scalia, the most militant conservative, was gone and they were worried that, that an Obama pick would flip the court.

    This time it's the liberal icon who has departed. And Democrats are saying, well, you know, one more conservative justice. There goes the Affordable Health Care plan, there goes abortion rights, there goes the whole agenda.

    And it's interesting that in the last 24 hours, a liberal fundraising group, ActBlue, has raised $91 million, which suggests that the traditional analysis that a conservative is helped by a Supreme Court fight that may have flipped this year. We'll find out.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Thank you, Hari.

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