'This Week' Transcript: Sens. Leahy and Hatch

HATCH: Well, I don't think there should be a litmus test or any set of litmus tests when you pick people for the high court, and I suspect that the president understands that. He's a very bright guy, charismatic, intelligent, likable, and I'm hoping that he'll pick somebody of great dimension.

We all know he's going to pick a more liberal justice. Their side will make sure that it's a pro-abortion justice. I don't think anybody has any illusions about that. The question is, are they qualified? Are they going to be people who will be fair to the rich, the poor, the weak, the strong, the sick, the disabled, and yet give justice to those who may not be...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Leahy, let me bring you in on this, because what Senator Hatch is saying there I've heard from a lot of other conservatives, this fear that the president's focus on empathy is a code for bringing a judicial activist to the court.

LEAHY: I've known President Obama long enough. He doesn't need to use code words. He speaks very plainly and very directly. I think that's why he won such a resounding victory in November.

I talked with President Obama shortly before he did that press conference, and I think I have a pretty good sense out of the meeting with him when I returned to Washington from Vermont -- I have a pretty good sense of what he has in mind for a justice. What I would argue...

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is it?

LEAHY: What I would argue...

HATCH: I would like to know that, Pat.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What I would argue is you walk into the Supreme Court, over the doorway there is a great big piece of Vermont marble, and engraved on it, it says "equal justice under law." That's what you want to have.

We've had a very activist court. We had an activist court that made a decision that allowed employers to covertly discriminate against women so that women wouldn't get paid equally. We in the Congress reversed that with a law, in fact, the first law that President Obama signed into law. I think he wants to have somebody to treat people all the same, whether they're Republicans, or Democrat, men, women, or whatever they may be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press on that a little bit, Senator Leahy, because you have spoken with the president about it. I just want to know a couple of things about that. Number one, did you recommend any specific candidates to the president? And number two, because others have not been shy about recommending a potential candidate. Your colleague Senator Schumer has said the president should consider -- highly consider a Latino choice. I think there is a wide expectation throughout Washington that the president will pick a woman. Is that your understanding, and does President Obama risk a backlash if he doesn't pick a woman?

LEAHY: Well, I think one of the reasons why the president and I get along well is that we have conversations; you don't hear about them. You don't read about them afterward.

I will make recommendations, some specific recommendations to him. I've also recommended that he sit down with both the Republican and Democratic leadership and talk about this.

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