“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen. … When there is vacancy on Supreme Court, the President of the United States is 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,” Obama said, taking questions at a news conference widely carried by TV news operations, from the first U.S.-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit hosted by the United States at Rancho Mirage, CA.
Hours after it was made public that Scalia had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to block any Obama nominee to replace Scalia from moving forward to a vote. And, Saturday night, GOP White House hopefuls, debating on CBS, discussed various ways to thwart Obama in this process, with Donald Trump advocating, “Delay, delay, delay.” Meanwhile John Kasich dreamed his Impossible Dream that Obama would change his mind about naming Scalia’s replacement, and Marco Rubio informed viewers it has been more than 80 years since a lame-duck president got to pick a Supreme Court justice, which was not accurate.
“Historically, this has not been viewed as a question,” Obama said of the process for replacing a Supreme Court justice, as set out in the Constitution. “There is no unwritten law that says it can only be done on ‘off years’ – that’s not in the Constitution,” Obama quipped. “I’m amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole set of provisions that are not there. There is more than enough time for the Senate to consider [his nominee] in thoughtful way.”
Hours earlier, TBS’ Full Frontal host Samantha Bee had similarly, though far more graphically, expressed sentiment about McConnell’s promise to block President Obama, regardless of who is his nominee. “What better way to honor America’s greatest champion of original intent than by wiping your obstructionist ass on the very document he holds so dear,” Bee said of McConnell’s reaction to Scalia’s passing – one of several late-night TV hosts who’d autopsied Scalia’s death last night.
“Part of problem we have here is we have gotten accustomed to how obstructionist the Senate has become when it comes to nominations,” Obama said this afternoon, calling it “a measure of how, unfortunately, venom and rancor in Washington have prevented us from getting work done. This would be a good moment to rise above that.”
Obama said he understood that “there are a lot of Republican senators under pressure from various special interests and various constituencies not to let any nominee go through, no matter who I nominate. That is not how our democracy is supposed to work. … We have to ask ourselves, as a society, are we still able to make this democracy work in a way that is it supposed to?”
Asked if this meant he would nominate a moderate who might be more palatable to Republicans, Obama shot that down, telling the reporter, “I don’t know where you’re getting that from.”