'This Week' Transcript: Sens. Leahy and Hatch

STEPHANOPOULOS: And in the short run, Paul, whoever he picks is not -- as George suggested at the top -- going to change the nature of the court dramatically unless this person has a special ability to get Justice Kennedy to switch sides on most big issues.

KRUGMAN: But think about the timeline here. Just four years ago, we were looking at, everyone was saying, we have a permanent Republican majority. We're going to have a definitive conservative Supreme Court. It's really all going to change, and all that has changed now.

So, yes, the person may not be more liberal than Souter, but the person will be younger than Souter, and so we're going to end up with -- Obama will probably get other appointments, so we're going to be looking at a court that is in fact not going to be that right-leaning court that almost everybody thought was inevitable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jerry, let me pick up on that, because I know that the thinking in a lot of circles around the administration is this is the first of three picks for the president. There's actually been a very elaborate sequencing worked out. Souter decided to retire only after he checked with Ginsburg and Stevens. Next year, either Ginsburg or Stevens will retire; the year after that, the last one will go, and the president is expecting -- no guarantee -- but expecting three picks.

SEIB: I think that's right. If you would just look at the actuarial tables going into the administration and think that's a likely way to look at it, and it actually enables President Obama to kind of strategize how he picks, what kinds of people he picks, knowing that the one pick isn't the last one, it's the first of several.

But it's also worth remembering, I think, that there's still going to be a fairly young conservative block on this court, you know, the Roberts/Alito alignment. They're not going away anytime soon either, so this is going to be an interesting -- an interesting time to remake the court, or not remake the court, as you suggest.

There's one other thing I would mention here that I think has gotten relatively little attention. You cannot have this hearing at this time and not have the abortion issue come up. And it's really the first time in the Obama presidency when that -- that is going to be raised. And I'm not sure that's really what the White House wants to engage in a debate about right now, but you can't really avoid it.

I was talking with a Republican, a conservative Republican senator earlier in the week, and I asked him, I said when does abortion arise as an issue in this administration? And he said not until there is a Supreme Court vacancy, and then two days later...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president was pretty clear Wednesday night at his press conference when this question of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade -- he said, listen, I'm for it, but it's just not my priority. I don't want to push it.

SEIB: Well, now, we'll see. Yes.

WILL: Well, one thing the president could do here is to do something that would break the streak now. We have nine justices who are former appellate judges, and he could go for the Earl Warren model, someone from politics.

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