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Republican Senator Weighs In On Supreme Court Nomination


And in that clip, Senator Orrin Hatch was referring to the Clinton administration, that is Bill Clinton. It was a time when confirming a nominee like Merrick Garland for the U.S. Court of Appeals could be a bipartisan project. This time, from the start, Republicans drew a red line. No Obama nominee would even be considered. Only a new president once in office could choose. Now, faced with a moderate, respected, potentially acceptable candidate, we reached Senator Hatch for his reaction. Senator Hatch, welcome.

ORRIN HATCH: Happy to be with you.

MONTAGNE: So back when Judge Garland was nominated to a federal court of appeals, you praised him but to disguise. What changed?

HATCH: Well, he belonged in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Now, that's a far cry from being on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And I think - to this day, I think well of Merrick Garland. I think he's a fine person. But his nomination doesn't in any way change current circumstances.

And I remain convinced that the best way for the Senate to do its job is to conduct the confirmation process after this toxic presidential election season is over.

You know, the president has an absolute right to nominate anybody he wants to. But the Senate has an absolute right as to when it will give its consent. And frankly, we think it ought to be after the election. And that's fair because who knows who's going to get elected in this particular election.

MONTAGNE: So when you say after the election, do you mean after November?

HATCH: Yeah, that's what I mean. Well, it would be up to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee whether we hold hearings or not. And I think a lot would depend on what happened in the election.

But certainly this choice ought to be made by the next president of the United States, whoever that may be. It may very well be Hillary Clinton. I don't think it's going to be Bernie Sanders. But it may be Hillary. And it can of course - it may be a Republican.

MONTAGNE: All right. So I'm - still want to get this clear. The understanding has been up until now that Republicans were objecting to any nominee that Obama would put forward and we're looking for the next president, presumably hoping it would be a Republican president - the next president to name a nominee. But what you're saying now is there's a possibility that Judge Garland could go through the process as a normal nominee once the election is over.

HATCH: It's possible, but I don't know. I mean, I don't know what the circumstances will be at that time. Naturally, I would like to have him treated fairly. But a lot depends on who's elected.

A lot depends on who's going to be president, you know. Right now, Hillary thinks she's going to be. And she may very well be. You never know.

MONTAGNE: Well, I - it does sound a little though like this strategy has been revised to allow for a lame-duck nomination process. And it sounds like, by allowing for the possibility at least that Merrick Garland would be considered by the Senate finally after the November election, it allows for the Republican Senate to avoid a nominee put forward by either Clinton, if she were to win, or Trump, if he were to win.

HATCH: Well, I think it'll be interesting to see if Mrs. Clinton would continue to support Judge Garland. If not, that would tell you something. And I would think that she would. If Donald Trump wins, it's - there's a very good chance that he'll want to pick - make his own selection for the Supreme Court, which, you know, I would expect.

MONTAGNE: Well, what now - no nomination, hearings, nothing for six more months?

HATCH: Well, why do that until you actually get serious about this, which will be after the election? I might add that if the shoe was turned and if this was reversed and the Democrats were in the position we are, they would not allow a Republican nominee for the Supreme Court during an election that's halfway over. I mean, let's face it. And they would not go with that. So for them to act holier-than-thou, is just holier-than-thou.

MONTAGNE: Senator, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

HATCH: Well, it's good to talk to you. And take care. I hope I've been helpful. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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