U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) meets with Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick Garland in her office on Capitol Hill April 5 in Washington, DC.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) meets with Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick Garland in her office on Capitol Hill April 5 in Washington, DC.

The Democratic presidential race got more contentious this week as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed over their presidential qualifications and subway tokens. After upsetting Donald Trump in the Wisconsin primary, Ted Cruz faces a hostile reception in New York. The Republican establishment meets to discuss strategies of a possible contested convention. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is dragged into the Senate fight over President Obama’s nominee to the high court. Mississippi and North Carolina face a backlash over recent laws seen as discriminating against the L.G.B.T. community. And the U.S. sets tougher rules on corporate taxation. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.

Guests

  • Rachel Smolkin Executive editor, CNN Politics Digital
  • Michael Scherer Washington bureau chief, TIME
  • Lisa Lerer National politics reporter, The Associated Press

Live Video

Transcript

  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. After big upsets in Wisconsin, presidential candidates look to the New York primary. President Obama returns to Chicago to stump for his Supreme Court nominee. And Bernie Sanders accepts an invitation from the Vatican. Here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press, Michael Scherer of TIME and Rachel Smolkin of CNN.

  • 10:07:28

    MS. DIANE REHMDo join us, 800-433-8850. Send an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see all of you.

  • 10:07:43

    MR. MICHAEL SCHERERGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:07:44

    MS. LISA LERERGood morning.

  • 10:07:44

    MS. RACHEL SMOLKINGood morning.

  • 10:07:44

    REHMGood to see you. Michael Scherer, tell us about Mississippi religious freedom law.

  • 10:07:54

    SCHERERSo this is part of a trend in mostly southern states right now and it's a backlash against the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide and what's happening is state legislatures are rising up against not only the national momentum, but against the corporate community, which has been very resistant to these laws and trying to find ways, very much like the abortion debate, to chip away at emerging rights for gay, lesbian, transgender people without -- within the bounds of the law.

  • 10:08:31

    SCHERERAnd so in the Mississippi case, it's basically legislation that says if you have personal objections or religious objections to gay marriage, to sex before marriage to anyone who identifies himself as something other than the sex they were assigned at birth, you are free to discriminate based upon that, to say I'm not going to serve cupcakes to this person, to say you have to dress a certain way at work, to say you can't use this bathroom.

  • 10:09:01

    SCHERERIt follows a law in North Carolina that was passed to overturn a local ordinance that said people could use whichever bathroom they identified with. So if you identified as a woman, you could use a woman's bathroom. It follows a veto in Georgia in which there was a similar attempt over transgender rights. The governor vetoed it under pressure from corporations and now Tennessee is looking at their own set of legislation around bathrooms, around the rights of counselors to not treat gay and lesbian people if they don't want to.

  • 10:09:34

    SCHERERAnd I think we're gonna see this -- the framework here is very much the abortion fight that we've had for the last 30 years. The Supreme Court steps in and then states, on a state by state basis, try and chip away at that along the margins and the country has to haggle it out.

  • 10:09:51

    REHMSo what's been the response, Lisa?

  • 10:09:55

    LERERWell, the response from the business community has been fairly strong. A number of companies have said that they, you know, denounce the law, said that they don't want to do business in those states. A number of states and cities, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington, San Francisco, Santa Fe and Seattle have banned officials from any state-funded non essential travel to Mississippi and other -- North Carolina, other states that have these laws.

  • 10:10:21

    LERERYou know, one thing that was sort of interesting was the reaction from the business community in Mississippi was a little bit more muted than we saw in North Carolina. In North Carolina, Pay Pal was supposed to go in there and establish an operation center in Charlotte.

  • 10:10:35

    REHMWith 400 workers.

  • 10:10:36

    LERERRight. 400 workers and they said, forget it. We're not going. You didn't really see that in Mississippi and I think that's more of a reflection of the economic situation in Mississippi. I mean, this is a state that has no Fortune 500 companies headquartered there so there's less pull for business to cut operations in the state. But this is, you know, a public relations thing for companies and also a recruiting issue.

  • 10:10:59

    REHMYou know, on Tennessee, it would actually allow mental health advisors to turn away people with whom sexual orientation it did not agree. So there we are, Rachel.

  • 10:11:19

    SMOLKINThere we are. And I think there are two interesting strands playing out. One, as we've been discussing is the Supreme Court ruling that kind of set all of this into motion with the ruling allowing gay marriage on the federal level and we are seeing states reacting to that so that's the legal ramifications as they play out that tension between the federal law and state law. And the second one is the fissures we're seeing in the Republican party between social conservatives who are really pushing to move this in a new direction, partly in response to the Supreme Court ruling and partly to put their agenda out.

  • 10:12:04

    SMOLKINAnd the business community, we're really seeing that split widen. We saw it in Indiana last year. We're seeing it come into sharper focus and that's happening at a time when we're seeing a lot of fissures in the Republican party and the presidential race as well.

  • 10:12:20

    REHMOkay. So do you think, with the exception of Mississippi, with the backing out of a company like Pay Pal, you might see these states reconsider?

  • 10:12:34

    SCHERERI don't know if Mississippi will reconsider, but I think this tension will continue. There was an issue last year where Indiana passing a law that was seen as discriminatory, the governor there backed out. I think what you saw in Georgia, the governor's veto was very much a response to the business community. This is different than other social issues. You don't see this on issues like abortion for instance.

  • 10:12:54

    SCHERERThere's state by state disagreements, but the corporate community doesn't say I'm not sending employees to Texas because they're making it more difficult to have abortions. So that makes that math of this very different. And I think this will be a long-term fight and I think, you know, the country is still moving. Even Southern states are still leaving. Even church-going Evangelicals are moving to embrace homosexuality in a way they never did before, to embrace gay marriage.

  • 10:13:22

    SCHERERAnd the shift is, you know, a 10, 20-year shift. It's not a three, four week shift. So this will continue to be a fight that's had.

  • 10:13:29

    REHMAnd then, you even have the Pope coming out with his statement of greater, wider acceptance of things with which even the Roman Catholic community may disagree.

  • 10:13:45

    LERERRight. The Pope is not sanctioning same sex marriage, but he has moved towards more acceptance.

  • 10:13:49

    REHMOf course not.

  • 10:13:50

    LERERAnd certainly more acceptance of divorce. He put out a big ruling this week that was talking about how the church needs to become more inclusive of various people and be cognizant of the stresses families are under. One last point on those laws. It's impossible to have a conversation at this time of the year without talking about politics and I think North Carolina is particularly interesting.

  • 10:14:15

    LERERThis is a swing state. This is a state that could be in flux and we are gonna hear about that law, whether it's overturned or not, in the fall for sure 'cause I can tell you that Democrats think that that's a state that they could win so they're gonna use this to rally their supporters.

  • 10:14:30

    REHMMichael.

  • 10:14:31

    SCHERERWell, North Carolina's been fascinating the last few years because it is sort of becoming a purple state and yet, the governance of the state has become very conservative over the last few years. And I think there's, you know, we didn't see it in 2012. We didn't see it in 2014, but Democrats have long predicted there will be a backlash. It's not a deep red state like some of those other states.

  • 10:14:53

    REHMAnd yet, didn't the governor of North Carolina have real reservations about this?

  • 10:14:59

    SCHERERHe did. And I think you could see a compromise coming out before the next election in North Carolina. I don't think it's a closed issue. What that law was was really overturning what a local community had done, what a city had done by ordinance. And I think you could come to a position in which the states comes up with a way to allow local jurisdictions to, again, figure out what they want to do.

  • 10:15:28

    REHMYou know, it does make you wonder about the power and authority of the Supreme Court and how much states are going to say, well, we disagree.

  • 10:15:43

    SCHERERWell, and the other thing, like abortion, I think a lot of these laws will eventually make their way back up to the Supreme Court...

  • 10:15:47

    REHMBack up.

  • 10:15:48

    SCHERER...because these are new questions and they are questions that do have federal constitutional jurisdiction. I mean, the question of whether you're equally protected under the law is something the Supreme Court deals with all the time. And if there's -- it's very likely that someone's going to make a case in Mississippi if they're not able to buy a cake or in, you know, in North Carolina if they're not able to use the bathroom the identify with and that will be a question.

  • 10:16:13

    SCHERERIt'll take many years for that to happen, but we're not done with the Supreme Court weighing in.

  • 10:16:16

    SMOLKINThis is, you know, a sea change in American politics. This is a major, major shift. And so these kinds of shifts happen over years, not, you know, decades even, not months or one ruling by any means. It takes awhile for these to become sort of settled law.

  • 10:16:31

    REHMLet's talk quickly about the Supreme Court unanimously upholding one person, one vote, Michael.

  • 10:16:42

    SCHERERThis was the latest in what had been a number of cases over the last three decades in which the court is weighing in on something they historically didn't like worrying about, how the U.S. does it's elections, how U.S. democracy works. The courts, you know, for most of the last century, wanted the legislatures in the states and on the federal level to figure out how elections were done and stay out of it.

  • 10:17:04

    SCHERERBut starting in the '60s, the courts came in and said, well, you can't -- there are limits to how far you can kind of game this system and that the principle here is that for every person, there should be a vote. And the question here before the court was, as you draw districts, do you count people based on the number of people who live in those districts or do you count people based on the number of eligible voters in those districts? If the court had said we're gonna count based on the number of eligible voters, it could've lead to a real shift in the way we draw districts.

  • 10:17:37

    SCHERERAnd so places with lots more people in them, but maybe not as many eligible voters would get less representation. What the court did unanimously was say, we're not going to touch that issue and that we're gonna leave it as it's been and so it's the number people in the district, not the number of eligible voters that matters.

  • 10:17:51

    REHMMichael Scherer, he's Washington Bureau chief for TIME magazine. Short break here. When we come back, we'll talk about the ongoing discussion over Merrick Garland's nomination to the court.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. This week with Lisa Lerer, national politics supporter with the Associated Press, Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for Time Magazine, Rachel Smolkin, executive editor of CNN Politics Digital. Lisa, we've got a caller in Gaithersburg, Md., who asked about the economic impact of those unconstitutional, perhaps, laws in North Carolina.

  • 10:20:43

    LERERI think it's very difficult to know exactly what'll it be 'cause a number of the companies put out statements saying they, you know, disagree with the law. But they haven't quite decided while they're gonna pull out operations. We do know, as we said before, that PayPal is not gonna build a center in Charlotte. That's 400 jobs and 3.6 million in, you know, investment. So that's a sizable amount.

  • 10:21:05

    REHMBut that may be small change in terms of the overall impact.

  • 10:21:08

    LERERRight. Right. If other companies follow their lead then that could be a significant economic impact.

  • 10:21:13

    REHMYeah, all right. Rachel, let's turn to the comments that are being made about Chief Justice John Roberts and his being really dragged into the fight over Merrick Garland as the nominee to the Court.

  • 10:21:34

    SMOLKINThat's right. Well, we were just talking about the Supreme Court. And, of course, Chief Justice Roberts has become the justice that conservatives love to hate because of his votes to uphold Obamacare. And we saw him dragged right into the middle of this fight over Judge Merrick Garland this week with the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, going to the Senate floor and telling Roberts to stay away from politics. He said if Americans feel that the debate over the Court is political, it's the Court's fault.

  • 10:22:09

    SMOLKINAnd he said the chief justice is part of the problem. And ended by saying, "So, physician, heal thyself." We then saw Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid coming to the Senate floor to defend Roberts. So a week of strange bedfellows you don't usually see, as Senator Reid going out there to say laudatory things about Roberts. But those are the circumstances we find ourselves in.

  • 10:22:36

    SMOLKINAnd, of course, the backdrop to the latest back and forth over Roberts is that President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, is just sitting there. All the action right now is not around will he get a hearing, will he get a vote. It's will Republican senators sit down for a breakfast with him. Will they take a meeting?

  • 10:22:56

    REHMAnd Grassley.

  • 10:22:57

    SMOLKINAnd Senator Grassley will do that. They are going to have a breakfast meeting on Tuesday.

  • 10:23:04

    REHMHow significant is that?

  • 10:23:06

    SCHERERIt's significant politically, but not really in process. Grassley still says he's never gonna hold a hearing for Merrick Garland. What's going on here is that President Obama and the White House have been very successful in putting pressure on senators who are up for reelection this year to play nice on Garland. Grassley is up for reelection. He's gonna face a tough fight. He's under enormous pressure and arguably has been hurt pretty badly over the last few weeks by refusing to have anything to do with Garland.

  • 10:23:30

    SCHERERHe's trying to get back control of the narrative here. Other members, Republicans who've said they're going to meet with Garland, Rob Portman in Ohio, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, are also up for reelection. They're feeling the pressure. And so the White House is winning on that front. Where they're not winning is actually moving forward to getting Garland to become a Supreme Court justice.

  • 10:23:49

    REHMSo it's all image?

  • 10:23:51

    SCHERERRight now it's all Republicans trying to manage their bad headlines. It's not about -- there's no sign yet that Republicans are bending on what the Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said, is the zero chance that Garland will even be considered this year for a vote.

  • 10:24:08

    LERERBut this is something that Republicans are nervous about. I thought one of the most interesting things this week was when Mark Kirk tweet -- the senator from Illinois who's up a really tough reelection -- tweeted out a photo of a handwritten note from President Obama, thanking him for meeting with Merrick Garland. And that just underscores, I mean, Republicans are not really typically tweeting out notes from the president, particularly handwritten ones. But I think that underscores how concerned some in the Republican Party are about what this will do to their electoral chances.

  • 10:24:36

    LERERI've had a number of high-level Republican strategists pulling their hair out to me, saying this was, you know, questioning the strategy and worrying that could really hurt them in some of the purple Senate states. Part of the issue here is not only fears that they'll look obstructionist at a time when most Americans seem really frustrated with Washington's inability to get anything done, but also, you know, the possibility that you could have Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

  • 10:25:00

    LERERAnd I think they worry that voters will say, well, do we really want Donald Trump picking the next nominee. And conservative voters may say that. He has, of course, talked about putting his sister on the Court, who supports abortion rights. So Trump -- it's just another example of how the Trump candidacy just complicates the equation for a lot of these purple state senators.

  • 10:25:20

    REHMSo the president went to the University of Chicago to make the case for Merrick Garland. Did he say anything that could change the way forward?

  • 10:25:36

    SCHERERI don't think anything that'll change, but he did sort of up the ante a little. He did say that if Republicans refused to take even a vote on Garland this year, then they should expect that Democrats next year, if there's a Republican president who makes a separate nominee, will be at least as obstructionist or try and be at least as obstructionist. Which is very much making this even more of a dysfunctional process.

  • 10:25:57

    REHMYeah.

  • 10:25:58

    SCHERERThere's a tradition in the Senate where when it comes to Supreme Court nominees you don't filibuster. You can filibuster lower court nominees, but you don't filibuster on the Supreme Court level. And what Obama's threatening there is that if you don't give a vote to Garland this year, then any Republican nominee next year will be filibustered and you could have years of vacancy on the Court.

  • 10:26:17

    REHMExactly. And for four times.

  • 10:26:19

    SMOLKINWell, exactly. And what was so interesting about this strategy was how quickly the Republicans decided on it and went all in, so hard. No wiggle room within hours of Justice Scalia's death, literally on the same day, saying there's no way they were gonna confirm a nominee, have hearings, do anything. And that was, of course, weeks before we even knew who the nominee would be.

  • 10:26:44

    REHMAnd that takes you right back to the election of President Obama, when the very next day you had Mitch McConnell say he is not going to win a second term.

  • 10:26:58

    LERERI think if there is movement on Merrick Garland's nomination it's most likely to happen in the lame duck session after the new president is picked, in that little period in November and December. And then things will get really interesting. Because if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins the presidency, wins the White House, it's gonna be really fascinating to see what happens on the Democratic side because Democrats have rallied around the president and said give them a vote, give them a vote. But if you really ask them, they're not in love with Merrick Garland at all.

  • 10:27:27

    LERERThey have a number of issues with his record. They would like to see someone who they feel has a much more strongly liberal -- has taken much more strongly liberal positions. So, you know, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could find themselves under a lot of pressure from their left flank to break with the president. But, you know, if you're gonna become president that's not necessarily the kind of precedent you want to be setting. So, you know, the politics could end up getting really interesting on that side or…

  • 10:27:53

    REHMThey're already interesting to say the least. Let's talk about Treasury's rules on inversion. The U.S. Treasury Department this week announced tougher rules on inversion deals. That came in the wake of Pfizer trying to acquire Allergan in…

  • 10:28:19

    SCHERERIreland.

  • 10:28:21

    REHM…Ireland, exactly. And Treasury really has toughened up the situation.

  • 10:28:27

    SCHERERReally toughened up. And arguably directly targeted this deal. This was a deal in which a much bigger American company, Pfizer, would buy a much smaller pharmaceutical company in Ireland really for the sole reason of saving about a billion dollars a year in U.S. taxes. So it was just a financial engineering move that would shortchange the U.S. taxpayer. And the Treasury, who's been watching these inversions happen for a decade now, basically put its foot down.

  • 10:28:55

    SCHERERAnd among the various rules they put out was one that said we are going to judge companies who do lots of acquisitions of other companies more harshly. And that basically puts Pfizer and Allergan in the crosshairs. And they backed out. They said we're not gonna go forward with this merger. You know, the CEO of one of the companies said it looked un-American, which was ironic since he was trying to shortchange American taxpayers a billion dollars. But, you know, it was a moment in which the executive branch flexed its muscle and won.

  • 10:29:29

    REHMOn the other hand, there are those who believe that these corporations are gonna find other ways to get around these rules.

  • 10:29:40

    LERERRight. And what the corporations say, basically is until -- we're gonna continue pursuing these kinds of deals, which, you know, in part Treasury is reacting to the fact that the number of inversions has skyrocketed in recent years.

  • 10:29:51

    REHMRight.

  • 10:29:52

    LERERSo there's been a huge increase in this kind of merger. And the savings, as Michael pointed out, are significant. I mean, we're talking about 1.2 billion dollars in taxes. Pfizer's tax rate would have dropped from 23.5 to about 17 percent. So that's a lot of money. So companies say they're gonna keep pursuing these kinds of deals until there's tax overhaul, until the whole tax code is revamped in such a way that they can lower corporate taxes by eliminating all those horrible loopholes we're always -- legislators are always complaining about here in Washington.

  • 10:30:22

    LERERBut, you know, there doesn't seem to be much action headed in that direction any time soon. That would require overcoming a stalemate in Congress where Republican say they won't touch it if it raises taxes on individuals -- or, sorry, Democrats say that. And Republicans don't want to deal with the individual side. So they're just at a total stalemate on tax reform. So I think companies will consider -- will continue trying to find ways to get around these Treasury rules and continue doing these deals. So won't stop it.

  • 10:30:53

    REHMOne person who ultimately did not get around some rules is the former CEO for Massey Energy, Don Blankenship. He's been found guilty for conspiracy to willfully violate mine health and safety records. He got the maximum punishment, Rachel.

  • 10:31:20

    SMOLKINYeah, he was sentenced to a year in federal prison for conspiracy, as you said, to willfully violate mine health and safety standards. And, of course, Massey was the fourth largest coal producer in the United States at the time of this terrible explosion, was one of the worst U.S. mine disasters in decades. The families and victims of that explosion still dealing with all the pain. And we saw that outside the courtroom as he was led away.

  • 10:31:52

    REHMThey all heartily believe that a one-year sentence is what he should have gotten.

  • 10:32:00

    SCHERERThat's right. The federal prosecutor said try to get felony convictions. Again, this is only a misdemeanor. This was the best they could do. But it is really remarkable that they won anything. This is not just the head of a coal company. This is one of the most powerful people in all of Appalachia, let alone West Virginia. Enormous political influence. Influence in, you know, judicial nominations and elections in the state.

  • 10:32:21

    SCHERERAnd there's a sort of sub-drama here. The U.S. attorney who brought the charges, Booth Goodwin, is a Democrat who is now going to run for governor. He has stepped back from being U.S. attorney and he's gonna run very much on his ability to prosecute this. So there is a lot of political power dynamics here. But for the federal government, who has been frustrated, regulators have been frustrated for decades about their inability to get a lot of these coal companies to clean up their operations, this is a big win. It sends a signal to other coal operators that even the people at the top will be held responsible.

  • 10:32:52

    SMOLKINRight. This is the first time such a high-ranking executive has been held responsible for this kind of a workplace safety violation. And it really underscores how difficult it is to bring these cases. Part of the way they did was they sort of portrayed him as a criminal kingpin who was, effect, running a conspiracy to boost his financial standing.

  • 10:33:10

    REHMAnd we should point out that it was a massive mine explosion that killed 29 people. Lisa Lerer, Michael Scherer, Rachel Smolkin, we'll be taking your calls, questions. Stay with us. Sorry. Okay. And we do have some callers waiting. Let's first talk about the presidential race and what is happening. They've all moved on to New York this week, after upsets for Clinton and Trump in Wisconsin. Big takeaway for Tuesday, Lisa?

  • 10:34:00

    LERERWell, on the Democratic side, you know, this was a big win for Bernie Sanders. It was his sixth straight victory out of seven primaries and caucuses. So he's very excited. He feels he's on a winning streak. But it does not change the math all that much. The way the Democratic system works, in terms of delegates, is it's a proportional system. So even if Hillary Clinton loses, she still gains delegates. So in the case of Wisconsin, she -- he got about a dozen more delegates than her.

  • 10:34:28

    REHMRight.

  • 10:34:29

    LERERRight? The gap in delegates, in pledged delegates -- we'll get to those pesky super delegates in a second -- Hillary leads -- Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by more than 250 delegates. So that's just a really tough thing to close. Then you factor in the super delegates, who are, of course, those party officials who can decide on either candidate. And that gap expands dramatically.

  • 10:34:50

    LEREROur count at the AP has Clinton at 1748 to Sanders 1058. So it's a -- he's behind significantly. In order to catch up he has to win 68 percent of the remaining delegates and super delegates. And that is just a really high bar to clear. He has to sweep every race from here on out and that's gonna be tough.

  • 10:35:10

    REHMMichael?

  • 10:35:11

    SCHERERAnd the map is changing, too. They're moving on to states in which Hillary Clinton will do better than she did in Wisconsin. New York one of her many home states. She's one of those few politicians who has many home states. But, you know, she was a senator there. She's very popular there. Pennsylvania, a state that she's done well in in the past. And this week, for Democrats watching this race, the real worry was not who will our nominee be. I think most Democrats are pretty sure Clinton will be the nominee.

  • 10:35:38

    SCHERERIt's will this continued campaign do damage to Hillary Clinton and the Party in the meantime. Sanders came out very tough against Clinton after she criticized him for an interview he did with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, and said he thought she was unqualified. He said -- he argued that the reason he was calling her unqualified was because there's a Washington Post headline that suggested she had called him unqualified, although she never used those words. And it just became very nasty very quickly.

  • 10:36:06

    REHMAnd he backed away.

  • 10:36:08

    SCHERERAnd then this morning he finally backed away. After refusing for 36 hours to back away. And every time he was asked do you really think Hillary Clinton, who actually has an enormous amount of experience as a senator, as a first lady, as secretary of state is unqualified his answer would not be yes, I really think that. His answer would be, if she's gonna attack me, I'm gonna attack her back. I mean, it was a weird place for him to make his stand. But he did back away. But it points to the fact that, you know, Sanders has a lot of support within the Democratic Party. He's very popular.

  • 10:36:36

    REHMHe sure does.

  • 10:36:37

    SCHERERAnd he can, if this gets nasty, really hurt her in a way that, you know, it's hard to game-out now, could affect turnout in a general election.

  • 10:36:45

    REHMAnd now he, Bernie Sanders, has been invited to speak at the Vatican.

  • 10:36:51

    SMOLKINThat's right. And he's going just four days before the New York primary. So as you come to this very crucial contest, a place where Hillary Clinton does look very strong, he'll actually be leaving the campaign trail, which was a surprise this morning, that he would do that. But an interesting…

  • 10:37:07

    REHMBut taking a very prominent place.

  • 10:37:11

    SMOLKINA very prominent place on issues of the environment and economic equality that are, of course, very near and dear to his heart and will give him a chance to speak passionately about those issues.

  • 10:37:23

    REHMHe has said that on so many issues he's in total agreement with the pope.

  • 10:37:30

    LERERYeah, my favorite -- one of my favorite things that happened in this election year was when he sided with the pope as supporting his socialist views.

  • 10:37:38

    REHMShort break. We'll be right back.

  • 10:40:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We have an email from Ellen in Alexandria, Virginia, who says, I don't understand why the GOP is not more supportive of Kasich's candidacy. They don't want Trump, they dislike Cruz. Why doesn't the Party support Kasich and urge voters to vote for him? It's clear there will be an open convention. And more support for Kasich means that there would be an electable candidate for the nomination and the Presidency.

  • 10:40:45

    SCHERERI think the answer to that question is you have to define your terms clearly. When you say the Republican Party, are you talking about Republican leaders, elected officials, lobbyists, fundraisers...

  • 10:40:54

    REHMOr voters.

  • 10:40:54

    SCHEREROr are you -- or are you talking about voters? And the truth is, Kasich just has not really been able to get traction with voters and that matters in a Republican primary process. The Republican electorate right now is really angry, is looking to burn down the establishment, whatever that is. And Kasich has not been able to attract them. Now, when we get to the convention, if it is a contested convention, if no candidate walks in with a majority of the delegates, you're gonna have three groups of people on the floor.

  • 10:41:21

    SCHERERYou're gonna have die hard Trump people, die hard Cruz people, and people who are hoping against hope that Trump can Cruz cannot get a majority on the first several ballots. And at that point, Kasich has a chance or someone like Speaker Paul Ryan. But the chances of that happening are incredibly slim and it's more complicated by the fact that right now, the delegates are being selected and many of the Trump delegates, the people who have to vote for Trump on the first ballot, because they're bound in their states, are being seated with Ted Cruz supporters.

  • 10:41:52

    SCHEREROr by the Governors of the state, with people who might back a Kasich or a Paul Ryan. And so, after the first ballot, the number of delegates going in could shift very dramatically away from Trump.

  • 10:42:02

    REHMYeah. Yeah.

  • 10:42:03

    SCHERERAnd we don't really know exactly how that's going to work, but there is a chance. So, the reason Kasich's staying in right now is to draw delegates away from Trump. There's a good chance he pulls some delegates out of New York, for instance, next week. And to hope that on the sixth, seventh or eighth ballot, when Cruz and Trump have not been able to wrap this up, people will turn to him.

  • 10:42:22

    REHMAll right, we're going to open the phones. Let's go first to St. Charles, Missouri. Theresa, you're on the air.

  • 10:42:31

    THERESAHi, I want to thank you for having me on.

  • 10:42:34

    REHMSure.

  • 10:42:34

    THERESAI want to tell you, I really believe that you all misrepresented the Religious Freedom Bills. I -- okay, I want to protect our preachers and our small business owners. The Freedom, the Constitution says we have the freedom to exercise our religion. As a photographer, I don't want to have to go out of business because I don't want to violate my conscience by celebrating something that violates my conscience. And I -- you know, it's not a matter of, you know, the, like, discrimination of gays and lesbians.

  • 10:43:19

    REHMYeah, but, let me understand, Theresa. Tell me how photographing something that you disagree with would violate your fundamental beliefs.

  • 10:43:38

    THERESAOkay, it's because it's celebrating -- I, when I photograph, I put my, you know, heart and soul into something, and I don't want to celebrate something that I don't -- that violates what I believe in, that I -- I mean...

  • 10:43:56

    REHMAll right.

  • 10:43:56

    THERESA...it's kind of, you know what I mean?

  • 10:43:59

    REHMYeah, I get it. Michael.

  • 10:44:01

    SCHERERSo, there is -- there are dueling rights involved in these cases.

  • 10:44:05

    REHMSure.

  • 10:44:05

    SCHERERAnd the courts have struggled with this for decades. And it's true that if you're a photographer, you have a right to religious freedom, that you should be able to express that. It's also true that the people who come to you for service have certain rights. Now, if you take an extreme example from the Civil Rights Era. If you had a religious belief that said I will not serve coffee to someone who's African-American, the courts have ruled very clearly that you cannot exercise that.

  • 10:44:32

    SCHERERIf you have a coffee shop, you have to serve someone who's white, someone who's black. And that's because the courts decided that the rights of the customer in that case were more valuable in that situation than the rights of the person...

  • 10:44:45

    REHMNow, how does that grab you, Theresa?

  • 10:44:48

    THERESAWell, it still doesn't. I mean, someone's actions, or, their decisions, you know, being black, they were born that way. I know a lot of gays say they were born that way. Okay, I understand, I mean...

  • 10:45:09

    REHMBut there is...

  • 10:45:10

    THERESAYou know, I guess I don't -- huh?

  • 10:45:11

    REHM...there is clearly a Constitutional question here.

  • 10:45:16

    SCHERERThat's right.

  • 10:45:16

    REHMAnd that is what North Carolina, Tennessee, perhaps Mississippi are all going to have to deal with. Let's hear a different perspective from Jerry in Raleigh, North Carolina. You're on the air.

  • 10:45:35

    JERRYHi, good morning. Thank you.

  • 10:45:36

    REHMHi.

  • 10:45:37

    JERRYYou know, in North Carolina the issue is overreach. It's not really about bathrooms or even voter IDs. When they passed the Voter ID Law, we were reluctant. But we said okay, fair enough. You know, show us a photograph, make sure you're voting, you are who you say you are. But they snuck in there closing polling stations, which are, by the way, highly Democratic. They also snuck in there getting rid of early voting. Which, by the way, benefits Democrats more than Republicans.

  • 10:46:05

    JERRYAnd on the bathroom bill, it's, you know, they came in saying we're going to bring jobs to this state. Okay, good. We need jobs, but then they do stuff that's counterproductive. The bathroom bill is more than that. They want to override all the local governments to decide what they want to decide. So, it's more an issue of overreach. And I'm actually surprised the media hasn't talked about this more.

  • 10:46:25

    REHMAll right. Lisa.

  • 10:46:27

    LERERWell, I think this sort of illustrates the discordant politics in this state, where you have -- Republicans have been very effective at winning over state legislatures who are willing to, you know, eager to pass these kinds of provisions. Even as the national landscape in a lot of these states, particularly North Carolina, is shifting. And, you know, these are becoming, North Carolina is becoming much more of a swing state. It's a state that President Obama won and then lost. So, and it's a state that's in play in Presidential races.

  • 10:46:54

    LERERSo, you know, you just have this disconnect between what's happening at the local level and where some of these states are and what's happening nationally as the country, the demographics of the country change.

  • 10:47:05

    REHMAll right, let me ask you all a hypothetical question. So, let's say this North Carolina law does go to the Supreme Court and is found unconstitutional. For example, our caller who is a photographer, says I still will not photograph anyone with whose behavior or inclination or orientation I disagree with. Does the law come after her and say, you are out of business. What happens?

  • 10:47:50

    LERERWell, I mean, we would have to see. And this is a hypothetical question, but I suspect what would happen would be somewhat like what happens in housing. There's fair housing law and, you know, there's investigators, and people can be reported. And, you know, then there's agencies that would investigate these claims. I mean, you'd have to put such a mechanism in place and there'd be a lot of work to do, but I would think that that, something like that could be a model.

  • 10:48:13

    REHMAll right. Let's go to South Berwick, Maine. Edward, you're on the air.

  • 10:48:20

    EDWARDHi Diane. I just want to say thank you for having me. I truly enjoy your show. I listen to it almost every day.

  • 10:48:27

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:48:29

    EDWARDThank you for having me on. I want to talk about Paul Ryan and the convention coming up in Ohio. I don't think there's any way that any one of the candidates now can get the nomination, the 1237. Would Paul Ryan take it? Would he come in to do it? I know he has said that he doesn't want it, but he also said about being a leader of the House that he didn't want that.

  • 10:49:05

    REHMRachel.

  • 10:49:05

    SMOLKINIt's a great question and a question that a lot of the Republican establishment is also asking. Now, of course, as you noted, Paul Ryan said as recently as this week that that's not happening. On Sunday, he spoke with the Times of Israel while he was in Jerusalem and he said, I decided not to run for President and I think if you're going to run, you should start in Iowa and run to the tape is how he put it in the interview. But as you point out, he also said that he didn't want to be House Speaker and didn't run for that, so certainly his name is one that's -- is getting kicked around as the Party searches for someone to unite behind.

  • 10:49:49

    SMOLKINAnd one of the interesting things we've seen, one of the important narratives of this election is even as the Stop Trump forces try to gain traction and they had a big moment in Wisconsin, they still haven't unified behind anyone else. The sort of the obvious second choice for them would be Ted Cruz, but he's also quite unpopular with the establishment. And just yesterday, told Dana Bash that ain't gonna happen when she asked if he would apologize to Mitch McConnell. So, a lot of bad blood there. Which is one reason that Paul Ryan's name keeps coming up again and again.

  • 10:50:27

    REHMIndeed.

  • 10:50:28

    SMOLKINEven though we have Reince Priebus saying, it's going to be one of the people who are running, there's this desire to look elsewhere for a candidate who could unite the party.

  • 10:50:38

    LERERI think this underscores the difficult situation Republicans are in with this convention. Either they end up with Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, who seem, you know, who -- Donald Trump has, as the AP had a poll out yesterday showing that he's sky high unpopularity. There's more than -- I think around two thirds of people said they would never vote for him. So, that's a rough way to get into a general election. Ted Cruz is pretty conservative and has taken positions that are just not in line with the general electorate.

  • 10:51:04

    LEREROr, you end up with a third mystery candidate that's thrown in on the 90th vote the delegates take. In which case, the Republican Party's in the position of picking someone that was actually not voted on by their voters. And so, that's a rough spot to be in, too. So they don't have a lot of good choices.

  • 10:51:23

    SMOLKINNot just picking someone who the voters haven't weighed in on, but doing it in an anti-establishment years where the whole mood of the electorate is take down Washington. Take down the establishment. There's a lot of anger out there. So in this, of all years, to pick their nominee that way would really be at odds with the mood of the nation.

  • 10:51:45

    SCHERERI think the answer to the caller's question is Paul Ryan will not campaign for this job until it is totally clear that the delegates at the convention in Cleveland cannot decide on either Cruz or Trump. It's only when the delegates have deadlocked that it's possible for someone like Ryan to come in and say, look, I never wanted this. I want to -- I believe in Democracy, I think we should pick the person who gets the most votes, but it hasn't worked. I'm going to save this process. Then he has a rationale. Then he has some cover to do it, but we're a long way from that.

  • 10:52:18

    REHMAll right, to Dave in Orlando, Florida. You're on the air.

  • 10:52:24

    DAVEThanks for taking my call, Diane.

  • 10:52:25

    REHMSure.

  • 10:52:27

    DAVEI just wanted to ask your panel, what do they think will happen if the Senate fails to confirm a Supreme Court Justice. We have another election like in 2000 where the Supreme Court, which is split, has to decide who's going to be our next President.

  • 10:52:41

    REHMWhat a fascinating question.

  • 10:52:44

    LERERI will get a very, very large migraine is what will happen. I -- that is a really good question and one that I think nobody, certainly, most -- least of all, the Supreme Court wants to be dealing with.

  • 10:52:57

    SCHERERIn practice, the answer is that if the Supreme Court deadlocks, the last appellate court ruling ends up standing. So, what would happen is the only way that case would get to the Supreme Court is it would have to go through federal appellate courts and then whatever the lower court had decided would end up having the answer.

  • 10:53:12

    REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And now, to Covington, Kentucky. Hi there, John. You're on the air.

  • 10:53:24

    JOHNHi. Good morning, Diane. Thank you and your guests for another timely and relevant show.

  • 10:53:29

    REHMGood.

  • 10:53:30

    JOHNAppreciate it very much.

  • 10:53:31

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:53:32

    JOHNI was calling about Don Blankenship, but I'm in northern Kentucky, which has a view of greater Cincinnati, and Governor Kasich -- I get a good healthy dose of Ohio politics with common broadcast channels and such. So, I guess this is an aside in a sense. Can your guests define, for me, or for your listeners, who are the happy Republican voters and then I get to the main question of why I really called. I'm in Kentucky, which is coal country...

  • 10:54:03

    REHMI'm having a hard time hearing you, John. You're breaking up on us and there's a real fog on your phone.

  • 10:54:15

    JOHNI'm sorry. Can you hear me…

  • 10:54:16

    REHMYeah. Please. Yeah. Please put your question quickly.

  • 10:54:21

    JOHNOkay. Why were the charges against Blankenship only misdemeanors?

  • 10:54:28

    SCHERERThe short answer is that that was the only thing they could get a conviction on. They tried for felony charges and in this case, Blankenship had not been directly responsible for the safety violations at the -- in the coal operation where these people died. So, they could not bring charges that he was directly responsible. They had to approach it in a more indirect way.

  • 10:54:48

    REHMAll right, here's a tweet that says, religious dominion laws have nothing to do with freedom. If you run a public business, you have said you will serve the public.

  • 10:55:05

    SCHERERYeah, but again, it's a balance. I mean, there, like, we have laws in place now that, for instance, a Catholic institution can have different hiring practices than a non-Catholic one. If you're, you know, if you're an actor, if you're a Broadway production, you can hire a specific type of person to fit your Broadway production. I mean, neither of these rules are totally absolute. I think, clearly, the law is moving in a place where simply a religious objection to photographing or baking a cake is not -- rise to the same level as being able to be served.

  • 10:55:36

    SCHERERBut there are plenty of examples you can find in the law where there are allowances made.

  • 10:55:40

    REHMAnd a question from Dennis in Jacksonville, Florida. Up your line, Lisa. Says he's curious about the super delegates with Democrats. Why does the media push them on Hillary as though she's won?

  • 10:56:00

    LERERSo, nobody is pushing super delegates on Hillary. At the Associated Press, there's about 700 super delegates. At the Associated Press, we have called every single one of them, and we call them every couple of months, so we have, we have the numbers here. We know where people have come down. There are about 200 or so that are uncommitted. Many of those people are people in public positions, like President Barack Obama, who are not going to side with either candidate, but we do have a good sense of where the super delegates are.

  • 10:56:31

    LERERAnd they are overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton.

  • 10:56:33

    REHMHow do you know they're telling you the truth?

  • 10:56:33

    LERERNow, they can flip. Well, so that's the thing, right? Super delegates can flip. So, they could say, you know what, I don't want to support Hillary anymore. I want to support Bernie Sanders. And that's what happened in 2008 and that was part of the way that Obama was able to win that election. That seems less likely this time, just because Bernie Sanders doesn't have the same ties to the party that Obama did.

  • 10:56:54

    REHMAll right, we'll have to leave it there. Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press, Michael Scherer of Time Magazine, Rachel Smolkin of CNN Politics Digital. Thank you all so much.

  • 10:57:12

    SCHERERThank you.

  • 10:57:12

    LERERThank you.

  • 10:57:12

    SMOLKINThank you so much.

  • 10:57:12

    REHMHave a great weekend, everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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