RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne, good morning.
Members of Congress are back from their spring break, and theyve got a new item on the agenda: the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. Now that Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his retirement, the Senate will be asked to confirm a nominee when one is named. Congress will apparently also be taking up an old agenda item: immigration reform.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised over the weekend to place immigration at the top of his list of priorities.
Joining us now, as she does most Mondays, is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let's start with the very important question of the Supreme Court, it's what everybody has been talking about all weekend.
MONTAGNE: How big a battle is the president going to see over his next nominee?
ROBERTS: Well, key Republican senators on the Sunday talk shows refused to rule out a filibuster, saying that if the president quote, names someone out of the mainstream, they would filibuster that person. Of course, one person's mainstream is another person's edge of the river. So you know, I personally think that what we're going to see is a big fight, no matter who the president names.
There was a cartoon over the weekend that had protesters standing with signs saying, blank is a baby killer, blank is anti-American, etc. - saying, we're just waiting for the name of the nominee to fill in the blank.
I just think Republicans feel, right now, that confrontation is working for them. Look at the meeting that happened of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans over the weekend, when Sarah Palin said, it's not a bad thing to be the party of no when you're saying no to things that you think are un-American or unconstitutional. In fact, it's a good thing to be the party of quote, hell, no.
So even if Republicans in the Senate wanted to be accommodating - which there's no real indication that they do - I dont think that most people in the Republican Party see the politics, at the moment, as anything but confrontational.
MONTAGNE: And so let's go on, then, to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his announcement that he wants to jump into immigration reform.
ROBERTS: Well, that was a surprise because, of course, financial reform is already on the plate, and the Senate hasnt even passed a jobs bill extending unemployment benefits. And immigration's become just such an intractable issue. Even the people who used to support it have cooled on it.
Jon Kyl, the senator from Arizona, Republican, spoke about the issue on ABC yesterday. Let's give that a listen.
Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): The conditions for immigration reform no longer exist. We just saw the tragic death of a rancher down on the border, presumably from drug smugglers or illegal immigrants. This simply illustrates, once again, the fact that we have not controlled the border. And until thats done, I think it's going to be very difficult for Congress to support legislation that would be as comprehensive as that supported three years ago.
ROBERTS: But Harry Reid says he's bringing it up. Now, over the weekend, there were lots of Hispanic rallies around the country with - and lots of stories saying that Hispanic voters had cooled on the Democrats and on the president, even after they had turned out for him in such huge numbers in 2008.
Reid is hoping to change that in Nevada, where he's - as you know - in real trouble. And I think that we also saw this number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, speaking at a big Hispanic rally in Illinois, also pledging to put immigration on the agenda.
MONTAGNE: Well, though - still, you know, considering, as you mentioned, jobs -it seems to be the big issue. Maybe it works for Harry Reid to energize his own voters back in his home state. But what does it mean for the Democrats if it stirs up the Republican base?
ROBERTS: Well, I think Democrats think the Republican base is already stirred up. Thats where the energy is in this election. And in the long term, they're doing a smart thing here - to remind Hispanic voters that they are the party that is pro-immigration, because thats where the growth is going to be.
The under-30 Hispanic voters, fewer than 20 percent of them voted for John McCain in the last election. If Republicans have lost that long term, thats going to be a real problem for them - even if they do well in this coming election.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Cokie Roberts joins us Mondays to talk about politics. Thanks very much.
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