Just hours after Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia’s death, President Obama announced on Saturday that he would fight to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the former justice. Senate Republicans are calling for the next president to fill the vacancy. Obama was informed of Scalia’s death Saturday afternoon while golfing in Palm Springs, Calif. The president is in California for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit next week. Addressing reporters’ just hours later, Obama said Scalia was a “larger than life presence on the bench, a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, an incisive wit and colorful opinions.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested the Senate would not consider any nominee Obama makes. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, said he has a duty to make a nomination, and the Senate has a duty to consider it.
These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They’re bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned,” he said.
Obama has had a mixed record with the Supreme Court, where Scalia was a consistent and passionate conservative voice. The court has twice upheld key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. But just last week, the court also blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Scalia’s death also comes as the high court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by deferring deportations for millions of immigrants who entered or remained in the country illegally.
Clinton, who’s in perhaps the trickiest spot, took longer than any major presidential candidate to issue a statement, ducking questions from reporters as she left a campaign stop Saturday afternoon. But her statement when it landed was cheerleading Obama more than even all the other things she’s said to get close to him in the last few weeks.
The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia’s seat to remain vacant dishonor our Constitution,” she said. “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.”
Bernie Sanders avoided the issue of the appointment in his short statement issued just after the news broke.
While I differed with Justice Scalia’s views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court,” Sanders’ statement said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing.”
Sanders has also made Supreme Court nominations a feature of his campaign, saying that he would use a pledge to overturn Citizens United as a litmus test. The subject dominated the opening of Saturday night’s GOP debate, with Donald Trump calling on McConnell to “delay, delay, delay” Obama’s nominee, John Kasich urging Obama to wait or seek a consensus candidate, and Jeb Bush also pushing the consensus line. Meanwhile Sen. Lindsey Graham used Scalia’s death to beat back at Cruz and Trump, whom he said couldn’t be trusted to appoint a conservative. Associate