Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democrat On Senate Judiciary Panel Weighs In On Sessions Nomination


And we're going to turn now to one Democrat in the Senate who will have an opportunity to consider President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. That's Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's a Democrat from Minnesota and joins us from her office on the Hill. Senator Klobuchar, welcome to the program.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thanks, Ari. It's great to be on - just a few things going on around here today.

SHAPIRO: Just a few things - thank - glad you could make the time. As we heard from Nina, it's virtually unheard of for senators to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, and yet some of your Democratic Senate colleagues are already promising to break that norm and filibuster whoever Trump chooses. Are you willing to stand with them?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, just to step back, this is a solemn obligation that we have, especially as members of the Judiciary Committee. It's in the Constitution that the Senate must advise and consent. And so we don't know who he's going to nominate. Nina did a nice job going through the two potential nominees. But I will say that I would look at this a little differently than just a filibuster.

It is a 60-vote threshold. That's how it was with President Obama's nominees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. They had to get Republican votes to be able you meet that threshold and we're able to get some Republican votes. I still remember Lindsey Graham saying, you know, this may not have been who I picked, but I believe I'll vote for her. Now...

SHAPIRO: Could you imagine saying the same about somebody that Trump picks?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't think anyone knows that yet because we don't know who it is, and we haven't been able to look at their record. And a lot of times people who may be on a lower court haven't been vetted in the same way or looked at the same way as a circuit court. So I just think it's important for the listeners to know that this is truly different than the other nominees we're seeing now for these agencies as well as the other judges in which we have gone to a 51-vote threshold.

SHAPIRO: For you...

KLOBUCHAR: But both parties made a decision in the rules to stay at 60.

SHAPIRO: For you, what will the decision hinge on? Do you have a litmus test?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't like litmus tests, but I really look at the person as a whole and how they've respected precedent. If I think they're going to respect precedent, if I believe that they have the judicial qualifications and their temperament - all those things - but a lot of it has to do with whether or not they see this as a way to legislate and continue what has been a real conservative agenda for the court, whether it's Citizens United and what they did there or some of the other decisions that have been really concerning. And just from a democracy standpoint, that Citizens United decision...

SHAPIRO: The campaign finance decision...

KLOBUCHAR: ...Has really thrown our country and our elections into a mess.

SHAPIRO: As we heard from Nina, some Democrats are referring to this as a stolen Supreme Court seat, referring to Republicans' refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing. Is that a factor for you, or are you willing to consider this nominee on the merits independent of what happened with Garland?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I said all through last year, Ari, that we had to have a hearing, and I believe that. And that hearing is our opportunity to do the job that the Constitution says that we should do. I only wish that he picked someone like Merrick Garland - let me tell you - because that was a mainstream candidate who had a lot of respect from Republicans and Democrats.

SHAPIRO: I'd like to get to Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick to be attorney general. Democrats today forced a delay on that vote until tomorrow morning. And this is what White House Spokesman Sean Spicer had to say about that.


SEAN SPICER: It's unfortunate that Senate Democrats remain so out of touch with the message that the American people sent this past November. The people want change. President Trump is delivering that change. And the only response from Senate Democrats so far is to stall - try to stall the core functions of our government.

SHAPIRO: Senator Klobuchar, I know you don't plan to vote for Sessions, but he does have enough votes to be confirmed. What does a delay accomplish?

KLOBUCHAR: Look at what happened in the last 12 days. We think it's very important to talk about the issues at hand, which is really key to the Justice Department's role. You have just last night Sally Yates, a career prosecutor with nearly 30 years of experience through Republican and Democratic presidents, who's on major - the Olympic bomber case and has done incredible work, nowhere near an activist - she's a career prosecutor - basically was fired for saying that she had concerns about that unprecedented executive order which has created chaos throughout our country for refugees and for people who are legal members of our country that have been here as - under visas, have been here as green cards, have been here as refugees. And so I think that issue opened up a whole new discussion area for whether or not Jeff Sessions will run an independent Justice Department.

SHAPIRO: Just very briefly, do you think he will?

KLOBUCHAR: We have asked him that. He has said he will. But when I look at some of his political stance - as much as I've worked with him on a number of issues, of Violence Against Women - yes, Donald Trump won, but I can tell you most of the people didn't want to throw out the Violence Against Women Act.

SHAPIRO: All right, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, thanks for joining us.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it was great to be on, Ari. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ FORMAT SONG, "TURNING POINT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.