TIME

Senate Leaders Spar on Whether Next President Should Pick Antonin Scalia’s Replacement

McConnell said a new justice should not be appointed until a new president is elected

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sparred on Saturday, shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, over whether President Barack Obama or the nation’s next President should pick Scalia‘s replacement.

The Republican Senator said the U.S. Senate should not replace the U.S. Supreme Court Justice until the American people have chosen the next president, who could in turn nominate Scalia‘s successor. The U.S. Senate has a pivotal role in the Supreme Court justice nomination process and has the responsibility of confirming or rejecting whoever the president chooses as their Supreme Court nominee. McConnell statement reads:

“Today our country lost an unwavering champion of a timeless document that unites each of us as Americans. Justice Scalia’s fidelity to the Constitution was rivaled only by the love of his family: his wife Maureen his nine children, and his many grandchildren. Through the sheer force of his intellect and his legendary wit, this giant of American jurisprudence almost singlehandedly revived an approach to constitutional interpretation that prioritized the text and original meaning‎ of the Constitution. Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Scalia family.
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.
In a blistering response, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada urged the swift replacement of Scalia. He said a delay would be “unprecedented” and “shameful.”
“The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away. With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”

Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both candidates for the presidency, released statements that strongly suggest replacing Justice Scalia should be on Obama’s successor. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called Scalia an “American hero” in a tweet that said “we owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.”

“The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia’s unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a statement.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley released a statement also calling for the next president to pick Scalia’s successor. “The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year,” the statement reads. “Given the huge divide in this 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.”

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