In prepared remarks at the White House tonight, President Barack Obama honored the life and career of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice who died today at the age of 79.
“Obviously today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy,” the president said. He made clear, however, that he plans to nominate a successor, despite bluster from Senate Republicans that they will refuse to confirm any nominee, regardless of qualifications. Said Obama:
I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life and making sure that it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.
Obama took no questions following his remarks.
Republicans who signaled ahead of time that they will block any nominee may have made a political mistake in their hustle to signal their True Conservative bona fides. No one doubts that the Senate has the constitutional prerogative to vote against a given nominee, but declaring that the president is essentially barred from fulfilling his constitutional obligation for nearly a year looks like pure obstructionism.
Hillary Clinton is already hitting Republicans on this point. “Barack Obama is President of the United States until January 20, 2017—that is a fact, whether the Republicans like it or not,” she said. Clinton said that calls to keep the seat vacant “dishonor our Constitution. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.”