Tapper then turned to analyst Angela Rye with another question: “Is it possible, Angela, that the two Republican senators who I believe support abortion rights at least to a degree, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is that where there’s going to be a lot of focus on Supreme Court battles coming up?”
“You know, it’s hard for me to think about Roe v. Wade and that overturning just given the fact that Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservative portion of the bench on the last four decisions just coming out,” Rye replied. “Whether we’re talking about the wedding cake issue with the gay couple, we’re talking about more voter suppression, based policy through Texas, if we’re talking about today’s Janus v. AFSCME case with labor union protections… the Muslim ban, as some of us are calling it as that’s kind of more appropriate.”
On Kennedy, she had this to say:
I think my issue is he has not been a voice of reason this term, and does that mean we’re going to get a voice of reason now? Probably not. So on that hand, yes, it applies a lot of pressure to Senators Murkowski and Collins. I really think… the pressure is on the legal community. There are organizations like the National Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, that have been pretty quiet on the judicial nominations front for the last year. It’s time for them to step up. Some of us have to renew and pay our dues, but I think that’s an important role that they’re going to have to play.
Tapper then turned the attention to political commentator Amanda Carpenter.
“They’ve got a big victory for Senator Mitch McConnell who has been obviously a stalwart in trying to get as many conservatives as possible. Republicans are pretty happy today,” he said.
“Yeah, I think you can hear Republicans singing ‘O, happy day!’ from Capitol Hill,” Carpenter replied. “A lot of people worry that Donald Trump didn’t have enough wins going into the midterm elections, but you’re talking about two Supreme Court appointments within 18 months––and the tax bill. That’s enough to campaign on, and I took care to note that Mitch McConnell said that this will be confirmed in the fall; that gives a lot of Republicans the go to their constituents and say, ‘Hey, I am part of the Trump agenda,’ even people who are not willing to do so on other issues.”
Republicans will “fall in line on judges,” Carpenter predicted, observing:
People in West Virginia can go to [Senator] Joe Manchin: ‘What are you going to do?’ And so you talk about pressure? I think the pressure is going to be on red-state Democrats and this helps Republicans in the Senate.
“I think that’s a very important point here,” Toobin interjected. “You talk about Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski––what about Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Joe Manchin in West Virginia? … How do they vote on this nomination when they are trying to walk the line, you know, being good Democrats but being open to Trump’s judicial nominees?”
The odds, Toobin says, are in the president’s favor:
I think the president’s in very good shape. I think he has a very free hand in nominating the most conservative person he can and I think that’s who he will.
Toobin’s response prompted Tapper to wonder how the news of Kennedy’s impending retirement could motivate progressive voters. He cited a press release from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (an organization which is categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) which quotes Perkins saying that the possibility of having another conservative justice on the bench could be a boon for evangelical Trump voters to vote in droves.
“Is it going to get Democrats out?” Tapper asked the panel.
“I think it sure better, it sure better,” said Rye. “By that we’re dealing with what some are calling an identity crisis, others are calling a struggle for power, like what will the face of the Democratic Party ultimately look like. If folks can’t galvanize and understand that regardless of how progressive you are you can’t be conservative enough for whomever he’s going to appoint, this should at least be a galvanizing and unifying point that we have to work together.”