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Week In Politics: Supreme Court, Cabinet Confirmations And A Spat With Schwarzenegger


A federal judge in Seattle has issued a temporary stay on President Trump's immigration executive order. By this judge's ruling, refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries should now be able to enter the U.S. The White House says they will appeal the action. That's just of last night. Earlier this week, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court justice. Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state. Betsy DeVos still faces a tied vote for secretary of education. And the president took on Arnold Schwarzenegger. We're joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks for being with us, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: What do we know about the ruling?

ELVING: This judge in Seattle, his name is James Robart, has had by far the most impact on the enforcement of the president's order that we've seen so far in the eight days that it's been in effect. It's a broad effect because in this case because of this order there are people getting on planes around the world again to come to the United States who had been told they could not come as of a Friday a week ago.

SIMON: Let me ask about the Supreme Court nomination. Some Democrats have indicated they'll do to Neil Gorsuch what the Republicans did to Judge Merrick Garland - not even vote to bring his nomination to the floor. Will that work?

ELVING: No, it will not. And it will not for two reasons. First of all, the Democrats are the minority party in the Senate. They don't control the process, the hearings, the committee votes. That's why the Republicans could stonewall Garland last year. And it's why they can do what they wish with Gorsuch. Now, the minority has one recourse. That's to mount a filibuster, which means 60 votes to bring the nomination to the floor. But that's what brings us to the second reason. If the Democrats filibuster, the Republicans have made it clear they're just going to use what's called the nuclear option - change the rules and ban the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

SIMON: A couple of Republican senators have said they'll vote against Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Any sign that will make her - prevent her confirmation?

ELVING: No. It's a tie right now at 50/50, which does make it rather tense. But there is no sign yet of a third Republican turning against DeVos. And if it's a tie on the floor next week as we expect it to be, that will be broken by the president of the Senate, who is, of course, Vice President Mike Pence.

SIMON: A CNN-ORC poll out yesterday gives President Trump a 52 percent - 53 percent disapproval rating. That's the lowest of any new U.S. president since polling began. Does this make some Republicans in Congress rethink their support for his policies?

ELVING: No, or at least not yet, not at this point. After last year, we need to remember polls are just polls. And besides, Donald Trump is still very popular among Republicans, and Republican members of Congress care first and foremost about their own voters.

SIMON: I have to ask you about this finally. The president chose the national - the White House prayer breakfast to unload on Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California, the man who succeeded him as host of "The Apprentice." The president said, they hired a big, big movie star to take my place. We know how that's turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster.

Let me say this carefully - does this make the president of the United States look ridiculous or just further endear him to his supporters?

ELVING: You know, it did seem rather an odd moment in the midst of the National Prayer Breakfast - that we have to say. And it probably makes the president seem ridiculous to those who see him so as a rule. But here again, as we have seen in many other instances already so far, the president is popular with the people who respect and like the president. And so what happened at the prayer breakfast for them was all in good fun.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.