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The Senate’s tight timeline to confirm Trump’s SCOTUS nominee

President Trump has said he will announce his choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court this Saturday. And although it appears the Republican-led Senate will have enough votes to move forward with confirmation hearings for the nominee, the timeline for them to approve the appointee before Election Day is tight. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As President Trump makes his Supreme Court timing more clear, there's still much to sort out on Capitol Hill.

    Our Capitol Hill correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins me now.

    So, Lisa, take us into the thinking of the Republicans. What are they planning?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A busy day, Judy, and I have to say, in the last 16 hours, even, it's clear that most Senate Republicans have moved en masse, as you reported earlier, toward a vote on the Supreme Court nominee.

    You can get into a discussion about their rationale now vs. their rationale in 2016, in some cases, very opposite. But I think underlying all of this, it's clear from talking to Senate offices and hearing what senators said today Republicans see a chance at getting a conservative nominee on this court.

    They're going to take it. And they're also calculating that they don't think they will suffer too much. There are vulnerable Republicans hoping this helps them raise energy and money at the polls on Election Day.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, we have not yet heard a clear timeline from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

    But take us through, what would the process be in order for them to get this done before Election Day, which is just six weeks away?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Today, McConnell said he will defer to the Senate Judiciary chairman, Lindsey Graham, to start the process, lay out a beginning of that process.

    But I think it's important for our viewers to be ready for this next very intense-looking month. And I'm going to lay out a timeline here. And I want to stress, this is just my best gas from talking to sources about what needs to happen and the timeline here.

    This is not anything that has been formally set in motion. But one possible way this could go, let's look at a graphic here.

    First of all, so we get this nomination this weekend, Sunday — or Saturday. Let's start with the week after that. In the next two weeks, from September 27 to October 10, that's really a possible timeline to just evaluate the nominee. The nominee would meet with senators, as we have been talking about, produce documents, do all of that research, senators and the nominee alike, getting to know each other. Not a lot of time.

    After that is when you see the next time frame, the next two weeks in October seem a possible timeline for committee hearings. That could be one week or more and also a committee vote.

    Democrats do have some ways of delaying things in that committee, but just by one week, and Republicans can overrule them.

    All of that, Judy — look at this — leads you to the final kind of potential vote in the Senate itself. That is the last week of October. And Judy, that, of course, is also the week before Election Day.

    So, this is an incredibly tight timeline. But, as Republican sources who back this idea tell me, it is doable.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it's also a time when many of these senators have their own races to deal with back in their home states.

    But quickly, Lisa, what are Democrats thinking about how they handle all this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is important.

    First, Democrats are openly raising the idea that, should they gain control of the Senate next year, they could consider all options. And that means, when you talk to them behind, kind of off the record or on background, they're talking about perhaps changing the number of seats on the Supreme Court itself, so that it changes the balance.

    They haven't made that decision yet, but it's on the table. They're also raising procedural hurdles already as objections to what Republicans seem to be doing.

    Today, for example, Judy, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer took a rare tactic and delayed — asked for a delay — or actually blocked a hearing with the chief counterintelligence officer in this country. That was an intelligence hearing that was supposed to happen. And Schumer blocked it, as a point of objection to how Republicans are handling the Supreme Court nomination.

    It sounds like — of course, to most people, those things aren't related. But Schumer is showing his base that he's willing to throw some punches. Republicans, of course, are furious over that. We will see tomorrow, we expect, an intelligence hearing on election security.

    It is not clear if Democrats will block that or not. We will be watching very closely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many divisions right now at the Capitol.

    Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.

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