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What’s next in the fight over Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat?

Correction: Lisa Desjardins misspoke during this live segment. Hearings for a new nominee to the Supreme Court could happen at the end of October, not September.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already launched a high-stakes political battle over whether President Trump and Senate Republicans can push through a nomination and fill her seat before the November election. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss names being considered to replace Ginsburg and the logistics involved in nominating and confirming a justice.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And to explore where we are now and what's next, I'm joined by our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, and by our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So, hello to both of you.

    And, Yamiche, to you first.

    Exactly how does President Trump want to move forward with this? And what do we know about who's on the short list?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Trump is eager to fill this Supreme Court seat vacancy, and he has vowed to do so, and Senate Republicans have also vowed to do so.

    He plans to make his nomination announcement as early as Saturday, and he wants that person confirmed onto the Supreme Court before the election.

    Republicans are arguing that there are a number of Supreme Court justices who were confirmed in the number of days that we have from between now and inauguration. They point specifically to the late Justice Ginsburg, saying that she was confirmed in 42 days, as well as John Paul Stevens, who was confirmed in 19 days.

    That being said, the president says he is going to nominate a woman. And we're told, the president says that he has five women that are on the final list.

    And I want to walk you through what — who some of those women are. First, there's Judge Barbara Lagoa. She is a federal Supreme Court — or — sorry — a judge on the federal Court of Appeals in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, Georgia. In January 2019, she became the first Hispanic woman on the Florida Supreme Court.

    While on the bench, she voted in support of a Florida law requiring former felons to pay court fees and fines to be eligible to vote. Some believe that that was unconstitutional.

    Next is Judge Amy Barrett. She's on the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Illinois. She's a devout Catholic. And that prompted tough questioning during her nomination in 2017. And then she's also a former clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He was, of course, revered by conservatives.

    Next up is Judge Joan Larsen. She's the federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice and the University of Michigan Law School professor, also a former federal prosecutor inserts. And, interestingly, Judy, she once volunteered for the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Bob Dole.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we see that was some years ago.

    But, Lisa, meantime, from the Hill perspective, take us through what the timing and the logistics are of this. Could they actually get this done before the election?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell's office is stressing that it is possible to get this done before the election. So, let's look a little bit about how that would work, what exactly needs to be done.

    If you can see this graphic, then you can tell there's — Friday, this very Friday, is 38 days from the election. So, a nomination on Saturday would mean 37 days that the Senate has to make this decision.

    What's involved? Well, the nominee would have to submit boxes and boxes of documents. For example, with the Kavanaugh nomination, there were over one million pages of documents with his nomination.

    In addition, the nominee will likely have to meet with all 53 Republican senators and perhaps some Democrats as well. All of that needs to happen in the space of just a few weeks, Judy, because hearings need to happen in the Judiciary Committee. That usually is at least one week.

    Democrats can call for a one-week delay in that. Republicans can override it. But if they try to go with normal procedure, Judy, what this all means is, there's just a space of two or three weeks for senators to make a judgment on the Supreme Court nominee, setting up a vote for the end of September.

    And, Judy, where are the votes exactly? John reported on this in his story. But let's look at where we are tonight exactly. It does take a majority of the Senate to pass a Supreme Court nominee on the floor, so, 50 votes are needed.

    Republicans, as John reported, have 53 members of the Senate right now. That means they could lose four. As he reported, there are two, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are against a vote right now.

    So, who are we watching? These three senators, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is up for reelection, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. He has said that, if he were chairman, he said this summer, he would not hold a hearing on any vacancy.

    And, Judy, he spoke to reporters not long ago, and indicated that a statement may be coming from him tonight. We will be watching.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will be watching.

    And just quickly, Yamiche, what are you hearing from the people you talk to about how this affects the election?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, this Supreme Court vacancy upends the 2020 election. It puts the Supreme Court top, top of mind for voters.

    It was already something that was going to be, of course, on people's minds. But the coronavirus and now the Supreme Court, it really underscores the power of the presidency.

    And I have been talking to some people who say the president is fund-raising off of this. He's using a new rallying cry, "Fill that seat."

    Democrats I have talked to are worried that this could depress Democrats, or some of them say that they could also be motivated, because, if this does become a 6-3 majority for Republicans, Democrats might be going to the polls in higher numbers.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, another huge set of issues and aspects of this election to follow up for both of you.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

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