As Obama Vows to Nominate Successor, Scalia’s Death Spars Another Political Fight

While in California for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, President Obama briefly addressed the nation Saturday night on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s surprising and untimely death.

Scalia, 79, passed away on Friday night at Cibolo Creek Ranch in Marfa, Texas while on a private vacation.

In his short statement, which occurred right before the Republican Presidential candidates’ ninth debate, he called Scalia “a larger than life presence on the bench” and one who “profoundly shaped the legal landscape.”

Mr. Obama went on to say that Scalia “will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the nation’s highest court.”

After chronicling Scalia’s distinguished resume, Mr. Obama vowed to remember the Justice’s memory, but also to fulfill his constitutional duties as president to nominate a successor to the Court.

Shortly after the afternoon announcement of Scalia’s passing and Mr. Obama’s statement that evening, many high-ranking Republicans, including several of those currently running for president, were quick to get political and say that Mr. Obama should not nominate a successor and should leave that obligation to his successor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, who runs the floor of the Senate and decides who and what topics get a vote, said that even if Mr. Obama does nominate someone, the nominee will not have a vote and the proper process that the Senate conducts regarding presidential appointments would not take place.

On the Democratic side, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont argued on CNN, “It would be totally irresponsible to wait” until the next president is elected. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada, also released a statement saying, “It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat.”

Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders echoed these words while out on the campaign trail tweeting, “Fill this vacancy. POTUS will do his job. Do yours,” and “POTUS has a duty to nominate Supreme Court justices. Let’s have a hearing and a vote.”

Although Mr. Obama has said he will not rush deciding on a nominee, potential names that have been suggested are Sri Srinivasan, a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columba Circuit. He was nominated by Mr. Obama and confirmed in May 2013. Another is Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position he’s been serving in since February 2013.

Political insiders suggested the appointment may go to a woman, such as U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch or California Attorney General Kamala Harris. A woman nomination would make Mr. Obama’s third female justice appointment, and fourth on the bench joining Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Funeral arrangements for the late justice will be held this weekend. Scalia will lie in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday with the funeral scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Burial plans were not announced.

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