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Post Politics Hour

Michael Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post White House reporter Michael Shear was online Wednesday, April 20 at 11 a.m. to discuss all the latest news about the Obama administration, Congress and more.

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Michael D. Shear: Good morning, everyone.

The president just made a few remarks about his meeting on the Supreme Court, so we can talk about that. But there's a lot of other things out there, so let's get going.

Mike

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Tampa, Fla.: Any idea when Obama will announce his nominee for the Supreme Court?

Michael D. Shear: The president just said he would "definitely" meet the schedule from last time around, when he nominated Sonia Sotamayor by the end of May. But he hinted that they may do it even a little earlier, to give the Senate more time to approve her. That suggest that we could get a name in the next three weeks or so.

In my discussions with White House officials, I don't suspect the announcement is hours or days away. But mid-May isn't out of the question.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Ok, I get all the legalities that are behind the decision to strike down the animal cruelty law.

However, I also regularly feed homeless cats on the weekends. There's still something inside me that thinks all the SCOTUS has done is enable the abusers.

Michael D. Shear: Woodbridge! I used to report from Woodbridge many years ago. Lots of animal lovers there.

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Greensboro, NC: What are the current predictions for Republican Senate and House gains this fall? And would substantial gains have any affect on the ideological unity that the Republicans are seemingly trying to achieve within their party?

washingtonpost.com: GOP changes its tone on bill

Michael D. Shear: The predictions vary. Some of the veteran watchers of electoral politics think that the Democrats could lose as many as 25-35 or even more seats in the House, and several in the Senate. (The Dems would have to lose 40 to lose control of the House).

If that happens, its likely that many of the GOP pickups would be moderates who win in swing districts. That could inject a bit more difficulty into the Republican unity strategy. But it also gives the Democrats less room for error in passing their agenda.

One interesting question: if Republicans did take over the House, would that frustrate their attempts to maintain a unified opposition to the president's agenda because they would be responsible for things like the budget and appropriations bills?

There are Democrats who think so.

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"approve HER"?: Is this simply your gender-neturality showing or do you think this is the direction in which he's headed?

Michael D. Shear: Good catch.

Alas, I was just typing too fast.

I do think there's a good chance he will appoint another woman. My talks with some of the interest groups who are close to the White House suggest that they believe a woman is likely.

But don't read too much into that answer.

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Mitch McConnell: What do you make of his abrupt change in tone regarding financial reg reform? Is he simply bowing to the reality that opposition to Wall Street reform is a political loser for Republicans?

Michael D. Shear: There are two realities here, and both are in play.

One is that polling suggests that Americans are heavily behind anything that can be done to restrain the massive financial institutions that caused the crisis. As White House officials like to say, they are on the side of an "80 percent issue."

Second is the reality that the legislation in question appears that it will have the support of several Republicans already. (Corker, Collins, maybe Snowe) and so it made McConnell's "hell no" stand untenable. All the Democrats need was one GOP vote to proceed.

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Florissant Valley, Mo.: Morning, Michael. I liked Perry Bacon's piece on the differing philosophies for choosing the replacement for Justice Stevens. Two questions: has a study ever been done comparing justices who had small prior judicial experience with their later rulings. Two, do these sessions between the President and the congressional folks ever change minds? Or are they just a polite gesture toward consultation? Thanks

washingtonpost.com: Obama to meet with top lawmakers to discuss Supreme Court selection

Michael D. Shear: I do not know whether a study has ever been done, though I suspect it has. Maybe a reader will know of one and alert us.

As for whether these sessions accomplish anything? There's certainly a lot of cynicism in this town (I share in some of it) about the value of these kinds of photo-op meetings. On the other hand, it's clear that NOT doing the most basic kind of bipartisan consultive meetings gets under the skins of everyone and increases the tensions.

So if the meetings simply help to avoid a deeper divide on an issue like this, it's probably helpful. Whether it actually changes minds, well....

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S.Ct. Nominee: How about Obama goes beyond judges, beyond politicos, and pick a non-Ivy League, atheist, minority, civil rights attorney who just happens to do good work.

As an attorney, this Ivy League, appellate elitist crap ruins the profession of law by creating a discrete and insular minority of the privileged, deciding everyone else's rights.

We need diversity of the legal academy and not just in terms of color. Of opinion. That's democracy.

Michael D. Shear: This is an interesting comment.

But I suspect that the president's pick may disappoint you. My guess is his pick will have Ivy League credentials (Sonia Sotomayor was Princeton/Yale) or will be a high-profile politician (maybe Janet Napolitano?) or a longtime judge or professor (Kagan).

The truth is that getting a nominee through the Senate is a political process, and that credentials like that make it easier. The president's staff has also signaled that they believe Obama is seeking someone who can be the intellectual and persuasive match of Chief Justice John Roberts, which might argue for prestigious experience or credentials.

Having said that, you get the sense that obama also values some of the things you mention -- minority status, civil rights causes, real-world experience. He often cited Sotomayor's experience as a prosecutor during the nomination fight last year.

So we'll see. White House officials say there are names under consideration that have not been made public yet.

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New York: Michael, have you read the NY Times' profile of Politico's Mike Allen? If so, your thoughts, those of your colleagues?

washingtonpost.com: Politico's Mike Allen, the Man the White House Wakes Up To

Michael D. Shear: I have read it, just this morning, before this chat started. (Full disclosure: The author, Mark Leibovich, is a friend and former colleague. And I have known Mikey for 15 years or more.)

The piece captures Mike perfectly -- he's a manic, inscrutable, tireless, scooper-upper of facts and rumors who is perfectly suited to what he's doing now. Like most other Washingtonians, I read his "Playbook" first thing in the morning, and if you don't know Mike, you would marvel at how he could possibly do it. Reading the profile confirms what everyone suspects -- he's just everywhere, talking to everyone, and cajoling little bits of information that he can fill Playbook with.

It's a great read. I commend it highly.

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Wokingham UK: Presumably regulators would stop banks from risking too much of their money on bets that are derivative from one sector of the economy,like mortgages -- and would therefore strongly influence how that sector behaved -- fewer people would buy lower-grade houses, perhaps. But isn't that socialism and isn't socialism generally detested?

Michael D. Shear: I suspect the answer to this from the Obama administration would be to say that government makes all sorts of decisions that affect behavior without being socialism.

For example, the U.S. tax code offers all sorts of benefits for homeowners, not the least of which is the mortgage deduction that can dramatically reduce the cost of owning a home. That pushes lots of people from rental properties into home ownership. And it's not socialism.

Having said that, there are legitimate questions in the U.S. political system about how much is too much when it comes to government control/intervention. That debate will continue to play out in the context of the financial regulatory legislation.

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Miami, FL: Gov. Charlie Crist said emphatically that he would not leave the GOP. Now, it appears that he is prepared to become an independent. How do you think voters will respond to this?

Michael D. Shear: I defer on this question to the real expert -- my colleague, Chris Cillizza, otherwise known as The Fix.

See what he just posted a few minutes ago.

http://bit.ly/csBg8J

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Rockville: Next to the SC?

Bill Gates.

Michael D. Shear: I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Bill Gates does not become the next Supreme Court justice.

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washingtonpost.com: The Fix -- Why Charlie Crist is no Joe Lieberman

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Michael D. Shear: Ok everyone. Time to go. Thanks for all the good questions. Keep tuned to the Post website for developments during the day.

Mike

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