Confirmation hearings are expected this summer for a new Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. Both of Minnesota's senators, Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be able to question the nominee.
Morning Edition's Cathy Wurzer spoke with Klobuchar Tuesday about the process, as well as about her name being mentioned as a possible nominee. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Q: Has anyone in President Barack Obama's administration talked to you about being a potential Supreme Court nominee?
A: Mostly some people there say, "Oh, I've seen your name on the list," but they mean the list in the media. I've said repeatedly, and the reason they wouldn't talk to me about it is because I've said repeatedly that I love my job; this is where I want to stay. Minnesota has one of the most junior delegations in the Senate and we need some stability. There's also a lot of economic challenges going on and to abandon the state of Minnesota at this time is not the right thing to do.
Q: Do you have anyone in mind who you would like to see nominated?
A: I would like to see who the president nominates, but I also want to see where the list goes. It's possible that there'll be someone we hear about in the next few days that I'd be particularly interested in, but so far all the candidates listed have strengths.
Q: There are quite a few women being mentioned: Diane Wood, an Appeals Court judge, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Solicitor General Elena Kagan. What do you think of them?
A: I have worked with all of them on one thing or another. Diane Wood was a professor at the University of Chicago when I was there. And Elena Kagan, obviously I've worked with her in my new job, and the others as well. I think he should nominate the most qualified person. When he nominated Sonia Sotomayor, I never said there should be a gender litmus test.
I came from the experience of when I was prosecutor, the Minnesota Supreme Court had a majority women, so it's always nice to better reflect the country. But again, I don't think there's going to be an outcry based on gender based on whoever he nominates.
Q: What is the first question you will ask the new nominee?
A: Usually I ask them just about their background. Why do they want the job? Pretty straightforward questions are important before you get to all the legal cases that most people focus on in these hearings. ... It just gives you a better sense of what the person is like.
If you think about doing a job interview, you don't ask immediately, "Well why did you rule this way in such and such case, or why did you decide to handle a case in this way?" You really try to get to the guts of the person and what they're like and what their interests are. Then you can go onto those other areas.
Q: Do you think this year's Supreme Court nomination process will be more or less difficult than last year's confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor?
A: I'm hopeful that it will be about the same if not less difficult. (The Republicans) started out by saying they were going to filibuster, but this past weekend you saw a bit of a sea change where they said they wouldn't use the nuclear option and they would respect the process.
With the Sotomayor hearing, while it was dicey at times and there were I think some unfair questions asked, overall the process was civil, the Republicans were civil. There were some moments in that hearing where you felt like politics didn't get in the way.
Q: So you would disagree with some of the pundits that say this could be a tough go for President Obama?
A: I actually would disagree. Now again, you never know. The way things are these days, one speech, one statement, one ruling, one case a lawyer handles is deemed to be radioactive. So I can't predict it perfectly in a crystal ball, but when I've been out in our state, people are focused on bread and butter issues. They're focused on the economy, they want to get more jobs in the country.
I really think if the other side wants to drag a nominee through a three-month, four-month process and try to get it all over the cable TV every single day, they do it at their own peril. Because the people of this country really want us to focus on those bread and butter issues.
Q: How soon could there be a vote on the Senate floor to confirm the new Supreme Court nominee?
A: The nominee for the Supreme Court will most likely, I hope, happen on the floor before the Fourth of July or at worst before the August break.
(MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.)