Obama: Will Nominate ‘indisputably’ Qualified Supreme Court Justice

President Obama

President Obama

President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would nom­i­nate a can­di­date to fill the vacan­cy on the Supreme Courtwho is “indis­putably” qual­i­fied. He called on the staunch Republican oppo­si­tion in the Senate to rise above “ven­om and ran­cor” and vote on con­firm­ing the nom­i­nee. “I intend to do my job between now and Jan. 20 of 2017,” he said. “I expect them to do their job as well.” Obama told reporters at a news con­fer­ence in his first extend­ed com­ments on the fight over fill­ing the seat left emp­ty by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Scalia

Scalia

Obama cast the dis­pute as a ques­tion of how far Republicans want to push their oppo­si­tion and whether the Senate can func­tion in the hyper­politi­cized cli­mate. Fights over judi­cial nom­i­na­tions are not new, he not­ed, but “the Supreme Court’s dif­fer­ent.” “This will be a test, one more test of whether or not norms, rules, basic fair play can func­tion at all in Washington these days,” he said. Obama spoke as he closed a meet­ing of Southeast Asian lead­ers at Sunnylands, a Southern California desert retreat. Obama gath­ered ASEAN mem­bers for two days of talks on secu­ri­ty and coun­tert­er­ror­ism efforts.

But the pres­i­den­t’s atten­tion was divid­ed. Since Scalia’s unex­pect­ed death at a remote Texas ranch on Saturday, White House lawyers and advis­ers have been scram­bling to refine and vet a list of poten­tial replace­ments, while also devis­ing a strat­e­gy to push a can­di­date through the Republican-led Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he does­n’t think Obama should be putting a can­di­date for­ward. McConnell and sev­er­al Republican sen­a­tors up for re-elec­tion this year,say Obama should leave the choice up to the next pres­i­dent. The November elec­tion, they argue, will give vot­ers a chance to weigh in on the direc­tion of the court. Obama dis­missed that notion. He has said he will put for­ward a replace­ment in due time and that he believes the Senate will have “plen­ty of time” to give the nom­i­nee a fair hear­ing and a vote. Democrats say Obama has every right and a con­sti­tu­tion­al duty to fill vacan­cies on the court until he leaves office Jan. 20, 2017.

The Republicans’ rec­om­mend­ed solu­tion is “irre­spon­si­ble, and it’s unprece­dent­ed,” Sen. Pat Leahy, the rank­ing Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday. “The American pub­lic expects us to do the job we’re elect­ed to do. The pres­i­dent is going to do what he is elect­ed to do and let’s vote up or down.”

The dis­pute reflects years of esca­lat­ing par­ti­san hos­til­i­ties over judi­cial nom­i­na­tions, as well as the unusu­al tim­ing. The pace of low­er court con­fir­ma­tions always slows in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, as the par­ty that does not con­trol the White House prefers to hold out hope that its nom­i­nee will fill vacant judge­ships rather than give life­time tenure to the oth­er par­ty’s choic­es. But Supreme Court vacan­cies in pres­i­den­tial years are rare, in part because the jus­tices avoid retir­ing when prospects for con­firm­ing suc­ces­sors are uncer­tain. If Senate Republicans hold fast to their vow not to con­firm any­one Obama nom­i­nates, then the Supreme Court will oper­ate with eight jus­tices not just for the rest of this court term, but for most of the next one as well. High court terms begin in October, and the 80 or so cas­es argued in the course of a term typ­i­cal­ly are decid­ed by ear­ly summer.The court will be unable to issue nation­wide rul­ings on any issue in which the jus­tices split 4 – 4.
Obama: Will nom­i­nate ‘indis­putably’ qual­i­fied Supreme Court jus­tice