Republican presidential candidates faced off at the CBS Debate on Saturday night, just hours after news broke that Justice Antonin Scalia had died at age 79. At the beginning of the debate, each candidate was asked who should appoint a replacement for the deceased justice—either the current president or the future one.
Here are their responses:
Donald Trump: “If I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice and I’m sure that, frankly, I’m absolutely sure that President Obama will try and do it. I hope that our Senate is going to be able to…do something about it. This is a tremendous blow to conservatism, a tremendous blow, frankly, to our country.
“I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called, delay, delay delay.”
Gov. John Kasich: “The country is so divided right now and we’re about to see another partisan fight taking place. I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody. If he were to nominate somebody, let’s have him pick somebody that’s going to have unanimous approval and such widespread approval across the country….I don’t think that’s going to happen. I would like the president for once here, to just put the country first.”
Dr. Ben Carson: “The Supreme Court, obviously, is an important part of our governmental system…we need to start thinking about the divisiveness about what is going on in our country. I’ve looked at some of the remarks that people made after finding out that Justice Scalia had died and they were truly nasty remarks. And that we have managed to get to that position in our country is truly a shame…I fully agree that we should not allow a justice to be appointed during his time.”
Sen. Marco Rubio: “This loss is tremendous…he will go down as one of the great justices in this republic. I do not think the president should appoint someone and it’s not unprecedented. In fact, it’s been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice…Someone on this stage will get to choose the balance of the Supreme Court and it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s here now.”
Gov. Jeb Bush: “I think the next president, and if I’m president I’ll appoint people or nominate people who have a proven record in the judiciary…The simple fact is the next president needs to appoint someone with a proven conservative record similar to Justice Scalia that is a lover of liberty, that believes in limited government.”
Sen. Ted Cruz: “We have 80 years of precedent in not confirming a nomination during an election year…Justice Scalia was a legal giant. He was somebody that I knew for 20 years. He was faithful to the Constitution. He changed the arc of American legal history…We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion that [was] adopted by the states. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would reverse the Heller decision, one of Justice Scalia’s seminal decisions, that upheld the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms…the stakes of this election, for this year, the Senate needs to stand strong.”
The candidates’ responses echoed that of leaders in the Senate who suggested President Obama should wait and let the next president nominate a replacement.