NPR logo

Will Obama Nominate A Republican To Fill Supreme Court Vacancy?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/468070396/468070397" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Will Obama Nominate A Republican To Fill Supreme Court Vacancy?

Law

Will Obama Nominate A Republican To Fill Supreme Court Vacancy?

Will Obama Nominate A Republican To Fill Supreme Court Vacancy?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/468070396/468070397" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Steve Inskeep talks to Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post about his report that President Obama is considering Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada as a possible Supreme Court nominee.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Honestly, if you follow politics, this next story is rather fun. Senate Republicans have said they will refuse to consider any nomination President Obama may make to the Supreme Court. To this, the president seems to be saying anyone? Really? The White House floated news that the president is considering a Republican. Now let's be clear, this is a game. There's always a game like this. As the Supreme Court nomination approaches, different names are floated. You don't know that any of them will actually be nominated. But this particular trial balloon is interesting because it gets you thinking about what the country might want in a Supreme Court justice. Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post first reported the news that the president was considering Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada.

MIKE DEBONIS: He has a thick binder with information on all of these candidates and lo and behold, there is a Republican in the mix.

INSKEEP: So why would this Republican governor be appealing to a Democratic president?

DEBONIS: Well, he addresses sort of the key fact of this Supreme Court nomination fight, which is that Senate Republicans are resolved not to confirm any appointee of President Obama's. And if you're President Obama, you need to test that resolve somehow, and perhaps the best way to do that is to nominate one of their own.

INSKEEP: Is this a plausible nomination? By which I mean, is this a guy with positions that Democratic voters, Democratic constituencies, the president himself could stand?

DEBONIS: There is a lot for Democrats to like about Brian Sandoval. He is pro-immigration reform, he is pro-abortion rights. He has, for the most part, supported and implemented the president's health care reform law. And he is generally considered one of the most, if not the most, moderate of the nation's 31 governors - talking about Republican governors, I should say.

INSKEEP: What about other issues like, I don't know, gun rights or labor laws?

DEBONIS: On labor, he's not considered a pro-labor governor by any means. But he is also not considered an anti-union warrior in the way that, say, Wisconsin's Scott Walker is. On guns, he is a westerner. He's a western Republican, and has sort of the gun record to match. He's very much considered anti-gun control. And there are other things that are going to be anathema for Democrats, certainly. When Obamacare was really a hot button issue, he declared it unconstitutional. And even though he changed his mind later and moved to implement it, that's something that's going to be pointed out should this nomination come to pass.

INSKEEP: If it were to come to pass, it would be interesting for many reasons, and this is another one - Antonin Scalia, late justice who's being replaced here, wrote in a decision not very long ago that he was unhappy with the lack of diversity on the Supreme Court. A bunch of East Coast Ivy League lawyers, one of them after another after another, with little experience outside the courtroom. Here's a politician - experience outside the courtroom, and not an Ivy League lawyer.

DEBONIS: He is definitely not an Ivy League lawyer. He went to Ohio State. He is a westerner, a governor. So in that sense, this would definitely be a nod towards diversity, to say nothing of his ethnic heritage.

INSKEEP: OK, so they've at least floated this name, although as you point out, there are other names. We don't know this nomination will be made. How have Republicans responded to the news that one of their own could possibly get this nomination?

DEBONIS: So far, they have kept the door firmly closed. Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, the top two Senate Republican leaders, both made statements yesterday saying we meant it when we said no Obama nominee will be confirmed by the Senate.

INSKEEP: Which is also a warning to any possible nominee - don't get stuck in this situation, you're going to get nothing.

DEBONIS: That's right. Yeah, there is sort of a prophylactic aspect to this. They're sending a message to possible nominees who would be qualified and perhaps easily confirmed saying hey, don't - you don't want to get involved in this. Don't even go down this road because you're not going to win this fight. And I think that that may keep some of the more troublesome nominees for them off the table.

INSKEEP: If you're Brian Sandoval, do you run away from this as fast as you can because even being associated with President Obama in this limited way might destroy you as a Republican?

DEBONIS: Yes, that's something, I think, that is certainly going through his mind. You know, he met with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, earlier this week. And from what we know about that meeting, he was very much undecided on whether he actually wanted to do this. But he sent the message - go ahead and start this process, but I'm still thinking about it.

INSKEEP: Mike DeBonis, thanks very much.

DEBONIS: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: He's a reporter for The Washington Post, and broke the news that Brian Sandoval, Nevada's Republican governor, is under consideration for the Supreme Court.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.