Republican presidential hopeful Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Sunday pledged to filibuster anyone President Barack Obama nominates to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, and rival Sen. Marco Rubio said Obama should not be allowed to fill the vacancy since he never again will have to face voters.
Scalia, a staunch conservative, died during a quail-hunting trip Saturday, injecting the politics of filling a vacancy on the high court into the 2016 presidential sweepstakes. Democrats said the nomination process should go forward. The last justice seated on the high court during the final year of a president’s term was Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, in 1988. Kennedy, however, was nominated in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan after two previous nominees were rejected by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Cruz responded “absolutely” when asked if he would filibuster a nominee in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“This next election needs to be a referendum on the court,” Cruz said. “The people need to decide. … [We] should not allow a lame-duck president to capture the Supreme Court.”
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 14, 2016
Cruz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the appointment of a liberal justice would lead to “unlimited abortion on demand,” an end to religious liberty and destruction of the Second Amendment. “I don’t think the American people want that,” Cruz said.
On whether the Senate should go through the process of examining a nominee submitted by Obama, Cruz noted it had been 80 years since a justice was nominated and seated during the final year of a presidency, calling it a long-standing tradition to leave the seat vacant.
“The role of the Senate is to advise and consent,” Cruz said. “We’re advising now.”
Rubio said a Supreme Court nominee is appointed for life. “This is not a policy you can undo,” Rubio said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying that’s why any Scalia replacement should be delayed.
“He [Obama] can nominate someone, but the Senate is not moving forward until after the election,” Rubio said. “This vacancy is going to be an issue in the election.”
“We have an obligation to do it [examine and vote on a nominee], but not now,” Rubio said on “Meet the Press.”
Rubio said the next justice should adhere to Scalia’s approach to the Constitution, interpreting it as the writers of the original document and amendments understood the words at the time.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., accused Republicans of playing politics during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have to vet any nominee, called on his GOP colleagues not to block the nomination process.
“Let’s have a vote. Let’s have a debate. … We ought to go forward and have a debate,” Leahy said, predicting Republicans would lose control of the Senate if they refuse to act, saying Americans want lawmakers to do their jobs.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he hopes Obama names a replacement “as soon as possible.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in Saturday. “The president has a responsibility to nominate a new justice and the Senate has a responsibility to vote,” she said.