RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump is set to announce his second Supreme Court nominee. It'll happen tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern time. A source close to the process tells NPR that administration officials spent a whole lot of the weekend in deep deliberation at the president's New Jersey golf club. There is political pressure on the president to pick someone who can get through the confirmation process. Republicans have a razor-thin Senate majority. They may need every Republican senator to secure the seat without Democratic help. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri told NBC's "Meet The Press" the president should take note of that political reality in his choice.
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ROY BLUNT: They're good judges. I think they'd be fine justices of the Supreme Court. I do think the president has to think about who is the easiest to get confirmed here.
MARTIN: NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now in studio to talk about the president's choice. Hey, Sarah.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: Who on the president's list is considered to face the toughest confirmation battle?
MCCAMMON: Well, near the top of the potentially-tough-to-confirm list would be Brett Kavanaugh. He's an appeals court judge - federal appeals court judge in D.C. And heading into the weekend, he was seen as a favorite. But a couple of concerns have arisen. For instance, his ties to former President George W. Bush, who appointed him - that could potentially be seen as too establishment for President Trump. Also, just a lot of material for vetters to go through. He's written 286 opinions, which is the most of any current judge under consideration. And, you know, the concern would be that something could pop up going through all those papers that could make him a tougher pick.
MARTIN: Amy Barrett is also someone who might have a tough time.
MCCAMMON: Right. She's seen as very conservative, very popular with the base. But she famously clashed with Senator Dianne Feinstein during her confirmation hearing last year to be an appeals court judge. The issue was her involvement with a mostly Catholic, conservative religious group called People of Praise. Feinstein raised concerns about whether Barrett could separate her religious views from the law. And Feinstein's question was criticized as anti-Catholic. But it's likely that supporters of abortion rights are still wondering about this issue.
MCCAMMON: At the same time, as I said, you know, Barrett's very popular with religious conservatives. Another potential mark against her is she's pretty new to the federal bench. She's just been a federal judge for about a year.
MARTIN: So who's left on the president's short list?
MCCAMMON: Well, the other two names that we're hearing a lot about are Thomas Hardiman, another federal appeals judge who was a runner-up to Justice Neal Gorsuch the last time around. A source close to the White House told us he has a flawless record. He's been vetted before. The New York Times is also reporting that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for either Hardiman or Raymond Kethledge, another option. He's an evangelical Christian, has a long judicial record, no real controversy on Capitol Hill. And he didn't go to an Ivy League school, so he might be seen as kind of an anti-establishment option.
MARTIN: Is there any way to discern how much President Trump is weighing the idea of confirmability in his process?
MCCAMMON: Well it's something he needs to think about, for sure. Getting a nominee through takes time. Republicans would like to see this get done before the November election, which could, you know, reshape the landscape, change the Senate. So it's in the president's interest to pick someone who can be confirmed quickly. You know, that said, he has made promises to his base. He specifically promised when he was running for president that if he got to pick two or three justices, Roe v. Wade would be overturned. So the reality, you know, as we've said, is that all these potential nominees have been vetted by conservative groups and have a conservative track record. Whoever is picked will face opposition from Democrats.
MARTIN: So the announcement is expected tonight, if it's not leaked beforehand, which has been known to happen.
MARTIN: What's the timeline from there?
MCCAMMON: Yeah, 9 Eastern time tonight is when the White House says the news will be coming out. The president's attention in the coming days will be on meetings in Europe. He's going to Brussels for the NATO meeting in the middle of the week. But the process of vetting the nominee will start right away. That likely means meetings with senators. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to push this through quickly. We could see hearings as soon as next month. And then McConnell has said he'd like to see someone confirmed before the court returns in early October.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Sarah McCammon for us this morning. Thanks so much, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.