The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made an already bitter presidential election cycle doubly so, with candidates on both sides condemning the other side for their views on the conservative jurist’s replacement.
President Obama said on Saturday night, “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” which touched off a torrent of debate over the timeliness of his comments and the appropriateness of a lame-duck commander-in-chief making a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.
The GOP debate later that evening gave the Republican candidates for Obama’s successor a platform for their respective takes on Scalia’s replacement, as did the Sunday morning shows. Here is each remaining candidate — Republican and Democrat — on the subject.
Sidestepping entirely “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd’s question concerning whether or not he has a litmus test for choosing a replacement for Justice Scalia, the GOP frontrunner said on Sunday, “I think we have some great people out there.”
Chief among those whom “everybody tells me would be outstanding” is Diane Sykes, federal judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. In a separate interview with CNN, he acknowledged the conflict of interest in nominating his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who is a judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I’d like to have the person tailored to be just like Justice Scalia,” Trump told Todd. When asked how he would determine that, Trump said, “You never know what happens … you look at where a guy like Ted Cruz pushed very hard for Justice [John] Roberts. Everyone thought that was wonderful, and Justice Roberts let everybody down by approving Obamacare — twice.”
“I will do everything that I can to make sure that when the president makes his nomination, the Senate goes forward in as speedy a process as possible, holds the necessary hearings and hopefully appoints and selects the president — the Supreme Court justice that the president nominates,” the Vermont senator said on “Face the Nation.”
Sanders then admitted, when asked what levers the Democrats have to compel such action, “The main leverage that we have is rallying the American people,” which is to say little to no leverage at all.
When asked on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday morning whether he would vote to block anyone nominated by President Obama, the Texas senator said, “Absolutely.”
“This next election needs to be a referendum on the court,” Cruz continued. “The people need to decide. I’m very glad that the Senate is agreeing with what I called for: that we should not allow a lame duck to essentially capture the Supreme Court in the waning months of his presidency.”
On Twitter, the Iowa Caucus winner said, “Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.”
Echoing Cruz’s sentiments, the Florida senator said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, “There’s been a precedent established over 80 years that in the last year — especially in the last 11 months — you do not have a lame-duck president make a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.” (Note: Justice Anthony Kennedy was appointed in February 1988, the last year of Ronald Reagan’s second term.)
Rubio doubled down on his comments, saying, “The President can decide whatever he wants, but I’m just telling you: the Senate’s not moving forward on it until we have a new president, and I agree with that.”
The former Florida governor broke slightly with his contemporaries in the Republican field, observing in an interview with CNN that the Senate should consider Obama’s nominee for Scalia’s replacement. He followed that, however, by saying that he anticipates Obama’s pick will be “out of the mainstream” and ultimately rejected during voting anyway.
“The Senate has every right not to confirm that person,” Bush said, reiterating that the Senate “should not confirm someone who is out of the mainstream.”
The Ohio governor went a step further, suggesting on “This Week” that if he were president — as Obama is now — “Of course I would send somebody,” meaning he would feel it appropriate to nominate Justice Scalia’s successor irrespective of how much time was remaining in his term.
He then qualified his opinion by saying, “But it would probably be a different situation,” without further elaboration. He specified that his nominee, by presumable contrast to Obama’s, “would obviously be somebody who, you know, is a constitutionalist and who’s not interested in making law.”
The former Secretary of State blasted Republicans in a Statement on Saturday for advocating that Scalia’s seat remain vacant until after the general election, claiming they “dishonor our Constitution.”
The one-time First Lady and New York senator went on to say, “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.”
In a statement released shortly after Justice Scalia’s death was reported on Saturday, the retired neurosurgeon said, “It is imperative that the Senate not allow President Obama to diminish [Scalia’s] legacy by trying to nominate an individual who would carry on [Obama’s] wishes to subvert the will of the people.
“Given the dire condition our democracy currently finds itself under Obama’s ideological agenda, I call on the Senate to stop any attempts to fill this crucial seat until We The People elect a strong constitutionalist this November.”