Obama vows to fill vacancy on Supreme Court, setting up clash with Republicans
Antonin Scalia, left, with wife Maureen, takes his Supreme Court oath from retiring Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in September 1986.(Charles Tasnadi / Associated Press)
President Reagan announced the Supreme Court nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, in June 1986, after Chief Justice Warren E. Burger decided to retire. At right is Justice William Rehnquist, who became chief justice later that year.(Ron Edmonds / Associated Press)
Justice Antonin Scalia makes a rare appearance on Capitol Hill in October 2011 to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the role of judges.(Jim Lo Scalzo / European Pressphoto Agency)
In this Aug. 6, 1986 file photo, Supreme Court Justice nominee Antonin Scalia attends a Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings in Washington.(Lana Harris / AP)
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses a Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) breakfast December 13, 2006 in McLean, Virginia.(Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (L) and fellow Associate Justice Antonin Scalia testifiy before the House Judiciary Committee’s Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. Breyer and Scalia testified to the subcommittee about the Administrative Conference of the United States.(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer (R) and Antonin Scalia (3rd L), escorted by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (L), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (2nd L), arrive at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee October 5, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The justices testified on “Considering the Role of Judges Under the Constitution of the United States.”(Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Surrounded by security, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia walks October 10, 2005 in the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City. This is the 61st Columbus Parade which celebrates both the explorer and Italian cultural influence on America.(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia waits during an introduction before speaking at the University of Minnesota as part of the law school’s Stein Lecture series, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)(Jim Mone / AP)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during a speech on Feb. 10, 2004, at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.(DENNIS VANDAL / AP)
US Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in the court’s official photo session on Oct. 8, 2010.(TIM SLOAN / AFP/Getty Images)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at the Economics Club of New York in February 2016.(PETER FOLEY / EPA)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, playing the role of Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller, talks to California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, representing part of the counsel for the state of New York, during a re-enactment of the 100-year-old case of Lochner vs New York on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, at Chapman University in Orange.(SANG H. PARK / AP)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after addressing an assembly in front of LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge, La., on Oct. 24, 2003.(BILL HABER / AP)
President Obama said he would make his third nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and called for a “timely vote” in a Senate led by Republicans who have said the choice should be left for the next president.
“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama told reporters from a hotel in Rancho Mirage, where he is set to host a summit of Asian leaders this week.
Scalia’s unexpected passing set up a major confrontation between Obama and the Republican-led Senate over the president’s prerogative to make nominations to executive and judicial posts, a major flashpoint of his second term.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement earlier Saturday that “the American people should have a voice” in the process, and the vacancy should be filled by the winner of the November election.
That change applied to all nominations except for those to the Supreme Court. Republicans now could simply refuse to even give the president’s nominee a hearing, let alone a vote.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would consider any pick, said in a statement that it has been “standard practice” for nearly 80 years that presidents not name Supreme Court choices in a presidential election year.
“Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice,” he said.
In his brief statement, Obama spoke warmly of the conservative justice, who died Saturday at age 79, as a “larger-than-life presence on the bench,” and one of the “most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”
He noted that he had invited Scalia as a guest to a state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.
Follow @mikememoli for more White House coverage.
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