By Katie Ellington, News Editor
An hour after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying that the Senate should not consider nominations for Scalia’s position while President Obama is in office.
After praising the late justice for his service, wit and intellect and extending condolences to his family, the statement ended with: “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.”
Multiple Republicans have voiced their agreement with McConnell’s decision that the Senate will not consider a presidential appointee; while Democrats support President Obama’s decision to nominate a justice before his term ends.
Both sides are appealing to precedent. During a news conference on Tuesday in Racho Mirage, Calif., the president stated that the constitution is clear on the process for appointing a new justice and that this process has never been questioned in the past.
“There is no unwritten law that says that (a nomination) could only be done on off years,” he said. “There is more than enough time for the Senate to consider, in a thoughtful way, the record of a nominee that I present and to make a decision.”
McConnell sent an email to donors Wednesday on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee asking for their support.
“Senate Republicans have made a commitment to ensuring that the American people have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice,” he wrote, according to a Politico article. “Stand with Senate Republicans as we hold our ground in waiting to confirm a new justice until after 2016, the time by which the American people will have chosen a new president and a new direction for our country.
Analysists say this may also be a strategic move by McConnell. In November, 24 states will be voting for senators, putting the GOP’s majority at risk.
Democrats, in turn, sent their own letter to donors, emphasizing the importance of the moment and asking for funds.
“If we seize this moment to hold McConnell and his Republicans accountable, not only will the progressive grassroots pressure be immense, but we can DEFEAT them in November!” said the request, according to Politico. “Will you show the GOP that Democrats won’t take their obstruction lying down? Pitch in now.”
Republicans say that no SCOTUS justice has been appointed and approved by Congress during an election year in 84 years. According to a fact checking article on politifact.com, four presidents have appointed justices during election years since 1923 (Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan). Roosevelt’s nominee was approved while he was in office, Eisenhower’s and Reagan’s shortly after their terms ended.
During his press meeting Tuesday, Obama said that his nominee would be chosen based on their legal mind, concern for democracy and rule of law and qualifications.
“There’s not going to be any particular position on any particular issue that determines whether I nominate them, but I’m going to nominate somebody who is indisputably qualified for the seat,” he said.