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LISTEN: Sen. Patty Murray says Democrats will apply pressure in fight to replace SCOTUS ‘North Star’

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks about the coronavirus during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Washington.
Alex Brandon
The Associated Press
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks at a media availability on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Both of Washington's U.S. senators are Democrats, putting them in their chamber's minority. That puts them in a tough position as the Senate seeks to confirm President Donald Trump's third Supreme Court nominee.

Federal appellate JudgeAmy Coney Barrett has been tapped to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Ginsburg was the first justice Sen. Patty Murray voted to confirm as a new senator in 1993. Murray spoke with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about that experience and the upcoming confirmation vote.

You can listen to their conversation above or read the transcript below. Both have been edited for length and clarity.

Patty Murray, U.S. Senator, D-WA: I had the opportunity to meet (Ginsburg), talk to her, and over the years, watch as she just incredibly kept a pointed direction in making sure that justice was clear in this country for every single American. And the loss to me is personal, as a friend of someone I've known well, but to our country that we've kind of lost the North Star on the Supreme Court that is sadly needed right now.

Kirsten Kendrick, KNKX: It appears the Senate is going to be voting before the election on President Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. What do Senate Democrats like you plan to do about this vote on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett?

Murray: President Trump has made it absolutely clear that he wanted a nominee  and got a nominee — that will push the court to the right because he wants to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which is very frightening because it means that hundreds of thousands of people will lose their capability to have their health insurance. So this has huge impact.

So what are we doing? Trying to put as much pressure as we can on the Senate Republicans from people across this country to say this is not who we should be putting on this court. They have the capability to do it. They say they have their votes. They've got a very few short weeks before the election. But I have been here long enough to know that public pressure on something like this can make a difference on vote counts in the Senate. So I'm hoping people speak up.

KNKX: Are there any specific tactics being discussed among Senate Democrats about what to do about this vote?

Murray: Well, there's very few tactics. I mean, we can delay (by) a few hours or maybe a day a vote, but very few tactics that we can employ technically, process-wise, to stop this. What can stop it is if they do not have enough votes on the Republican side.

KNKX: You were mentioning concerns about the Affordable Care Act. What about the status of Roe v. Wade?

Murray: President Trump has made it very, very, very clear. He wants a court system and a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade. That is frightening. I was in college pre-Roe v. Wade, and I had friends  I actually had a very specific friend who was what we now, today, would call date raped. And because there was not a safe legal process for her to get the health care she needed, she ended up in a back alley abortion. And because of that, her ability to ever have a child again was taken away from her. We cannot go back to that. We need access to safe legal abortions and for women to make their own health care decisions in this country. 

KNKX: Another issue I wanted to ask you about is election integrity. It's been talked about a lot. Washington, of course, has been voting by mail for several years. But with all the talk out there, what can you and others in Congress do to ensure, or in some cases restore, trust in the process? 

Murray: Look, I absolutely believe that the integrity of this election has to be very clear. And it is deeply concerning to me that this president, President Trump, (has) at every opportunity directly challenged Americans in thinking that this election would be safe and free, and (is) actually intimidating people. And we cannot have that. We are a democracy. Our votes count. What people believe in counts. And I say to all of those who listen to this president try to intimidate voters or say things that make people feel like this isn't worth it: Prove him wrong and go vote. 


A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.