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What Nomination Of Amy Coney Barrett To The Supreme Court May Mean For Parties

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump is preparing to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. NPR has learned that Republicans expect the president to choose federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Trump will announce his decision tomorrow, one day after Ginsburg was honored as her body lay in state at the U.S. Capitol. NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is with us now.

And, Domenico, let's start with the fact that Amy Coney Barrett has been the front-runner in this process. Can you help us understand why?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Yeah. Almost since the moment that this became a vacancy, she's been the front-runner. And the reason for that was because she was a runner-up last time, when Brett Kavanaugh got the seat on the Supreme Court. You know, and that means that she's vetted, which is really important for getting someone through at the sort of speed that Republicans and President Trump are looking to get her to do right now. You know, she's a favorite of social conservatives. And she's 48 years old. That means that she would be the youngest person on the court currently serving. She could serve on the court for decades and help shape social policy for generations.

CORNISH: If she's vetted, what argument should we expect against a specific nominee in this case?

MONTANARO: Well, first, we should note, I mean, it's pretty unlikely that Democrats will be able to derail her based on the numbers. You know, she's qualified, first and foremost, which would be the main thing that could blow something like this up. I mean, remember; Harriet Miers, who was the counsel to President George W. Bush, wound up not going through, but that was mostly because Republicans didn't think that she was qualified and didn't want her to be the nominee. You know, Democrats don't like that she's pretty conservative across the board, whether it's on abortion or guns. Take your pick of any issue, really - very different from who she would be replacing, the late icon - liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On abortion in particular, she's argued that the core of the ruling Roe v. Wade would likely stay in place, but more restrictions would likely be added. And she said that before President Trump was elected and before conservatives held a majority on the court, so we just don't know how far she would actually go.

You know, so in the past, Democrats have also questioned her religion. She's Catholic, devoutly Catholic - was a professor at Notre Dame. They said, the dogma runs deep in you - was what Sen. Dianne Feinstein said about her. And Republicans accused Democrats of anti-Catholic bigotry, which is something you'd expect to hear again this time if they go there.

CORNISH: Given that this is coming so close to the election, what's the larger strategy from each side in this fight?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, Republicans are going to stress her record, you know, and, again, could come back to some of the anti-Catholic bigotry that they've talked about last time if Democrats go there. You know, and they're going to say, look; it's President Trump's right to appoint somebody - that she had a bipartisan vote the last time that she was confirmed three years ago to be on the federal bench. You know, there were 55 votes for her, which included three Democrats. And Democrats are going to push health care. They're going to say that the Affordable Care Act is on the ballot. Amy Coney Barrett has criticized John Roberts' logic in getting to his ruling that upheld the law, saying that a mandate was a tax instead of a penalty. She's a pretty strict originalist and textualist. And she says if it says penalty, it's a penalty not a tax.

CORNISH: President Trump has said he wants the Senate to confirm his nominee by Election Day. How likely is that?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, we're talking five weeks from now. That would be very fast (laughter). But Republicans have the votes and could do it. They control the agenda and can move it along pretty swiftly if they want to. And they likely do want to. You know, they could have hearings in mid-October. Democrats really have very few options to delay this process. And it could be, you know, either now or in the lame duck session, frankly. But this is why Republicans have overall stood with President Trump. I mean, they - for all of what he does and what they want to ignore, getting three picks on the Supreme Court is huge for them. I mean, take a step back. This is the most conservative court in three-quarters of a century, and it's about to get more so.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.