Trump To Nominate New Supreme Court Justice As Nation Mourns Ruth Bader Ginsburg
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And we witness an exit and an entrance today - the entrance of Amy Coney Barrett as President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is expected to announce her as his choice later today. The exit, of course, is that of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She became the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Her burial will take place next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Let's bring in NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks so much for being with us.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Happy to do it, Scott.
SIMON: And let us begin with that memorial to Justice Ginsburg - short, very memorable and moving. What stands out to you?
JOHNSON: You know, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt talked about the justice's lifelong commitment to justice. Let's take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LAUREN HOLTZBLATT: Justice did not arrive like a lightning bolt, but rather through dogged persistence all the days of her life. Real change, she said, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
JOHNSON: The rabbi described how Justice Ginsburg worked case by case to fight gender discrimination earlier in her career. And that ultimately made it possible for women to get credit cards in their own names and for men with young kids to get Social Security benefits when their wives died. Really, she changed the world for all of us.
And believe it or not, Scott, in the midst of all this solemn ceremony, there was a moment of surprise. Justice Ginsburg's personal trainer paid his respects by doing three pushups right in front of her casket. And the justice's friends tell me she would have loved that.
SIMON: And, of course, as you reported last night, President Trump is reportedly set to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the bench. What's the latest?
JOHNSON: Yeah, the announcement's supposed to come tonight from the White House. And people closely following the pick say it is Judge Coney Barrett, though they caution this president is idiosyncratic. He possibly could still change his mind. You know, Barrett is a judge already on the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court. She's a protege of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was President Trump's favorite justice. And Amy Coney Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame before all that. She is 48 years old and could serve on the bench for decades. She's also the mother of seven kids and a devout Catholic. And she has taken a dim view of abortion rights in the past, which is certainly going to come up if she is nominated and gets a hearing.
SIMON: Of course, we're just 38 days from the election. Voting has already begun in a number of states. Is there enough time for the Senate to confirm the nominee or not?
JOHNSON: I think there is enough time. Sources close to the process say they're setting up meetings with senators and the nominee next week. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham really wants to move fast. He thinks the hearings could start the week of October 12th. And it's possible there could be a confirmation right around or right after the election because only two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had wanted to delay the vote.
And, Scott, as we know Justice Ginsburg's granddaughter had told our Nina Totenberg the justice's most fervent wish was to wait for the next president to be installed and replace her, but that does not seem to be in the cards.
SIMON: And, of course, the Supreme Court begins its new term, really in just a few days, in October. Will they go ahead and hear cases with just eight justices?
JOHNSON: They will go ahead. That's what happened in the recent past after Justice Scalia died. And, you know, one of the first cases the new court is going to hear concerns the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It's possible that they decide to proceed with that case or that Chief Justice John Roberts might ask the court to wait and hear it once a new justice is confirmed. Remember; if the court does deadlock 4-to-4, it's as if the Supreme Court never touched the case, and the lower court decision would stand.
SIMON: NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thanks so much.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.