LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
Congress gets back in session this week, and its to-do list reads like a rundown of some of President Obama's top priorities: a major climate change bill, universal health care legislation. And while lawmakers were away on a Memorial Day recess, the president added one more task - confirming his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Joining us from Capitol Hill is NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna. Good morning, David.
DAVID WELNA: Good morning, Liane.
HANSEN: So what will be happening on Capitol Hill with the Sotomayor nomination?
WELNA: Well, you know, we had a kind of wholesale rollout this past week of her nomination. But what you're going to begin seeing this week is an intense and largely behind-closed-doors retail sales job of Judge Sotomayor that's going to be happening in the offices of Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They're the ones who will be conducting the judge's most consequential job interview ever, when she has her confirmation hearings.
Sotomayor will be doing these courtesy visits with all 19 members of the committee and, you know, they're a chance for her both to hear any concerns that they might have about her, and also to begin establishing a relationship with them.
HANSEN: President Obama wants the Senate to confirm Judge Sotomayor before the big summer recess begins, the second week of August. Do you think that's likely to happen?
WELNA: You know, if past is prologue, that should be enough time to get it done. It's a 74-day window counting from the day she was nominated, and that's just under the average of 83 days it's taken to confirm the 10 most recent justices on the Supreme Court. If they're going to meet the deadline the president set, though, the confirmation hearings would have to get underway soon after mid-July. And the top Democrat and top Republican on the Judiciary Committee have yet to agree on just when those hearings should begin.
HANSEN: Well, if you go back to 1997, when President Clinton nominated Sonia Sotomayor to be an appellate court judge, it took 13 months to get her confirmed under a Republican controlled Senate. Could that happen this time?
WELNA: Well, you know, holding things up like that for an appeals court nomination would not be that unusual, but it would be unprecedented for a Supreme Court nomination. Also, when Sotomayor's nomination was held up 11 years ago, it was by a Senate controlled by Republicans. Now only 7 of the 19 judiciary panel members are Republicans. And some of them are saying slow down, there's no reason not to finish this until September, which would leave more time for Sotomayor's opponents and some of us reporters to uncover some possibly damaging things about her.
But given their shrunken numbers, it might seem hard for Republicans, really, to slow things down. But they do have what's known as Committee Rule number IV, which gives them the right to filibuster a nomination in committee. And it can only be broken if at least one member of the minority votes with the majority to end it. Republicans could pay a high political price, though, if they were to use this, especially among Latinos and women, since support among those groups - for Republicans - has already fallen.
HANSEN: NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna. David, thanks a lot.
WELNA: You're welcome, Liane.
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