President Obama said Tuesday that despite Republican vows to block him, he will nominate a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly on Saturday.
Obama spoke during a news conference after a summit with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Rancho Mirage, Calif., but the first questions from reporters were about filling the empty Supreme Court seat.
Obama offered his condolences to the Scalia family and called the judge a “giant” on the court before reiterating remarks from earlier this week, saying he intended to “do his job” as president and nominate a replacement.
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed happen. When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the president is supposed to nominate someone, the Senate is to consider that nomination and either they disapprove of that nominee or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court,” he said. “Historically, this has not been viewed as a question.”
Obama characterized the rhetoric from Republicans — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the next president to nominate the replacement and others have said they would refuse to hold a hearing to consider any Obama nomination — as “a measure of how, unfortunately, the venom and rancor in Washington has prevented us from getting basic work done.”
“This would be a good moment for us to rise above that,” Obama said.
Obama was also asked about Justice Samuel Alito’s contentious confirmation in 2006. The questioner noted Alito was nominated by President George W. Bush and during the Senate review process, Democrats, including then-Sen. Obama, filibustered to block a vote.
“How judicial nominations have evolved over time is not historically the fault of any single party,” Obama said. “This has become just one more extension of politics.”
And, he pointed out, Alito “is on the bench right now.”