The Slatest

Senate Majority Leader: Next President Should Choose Scalia’s Successor

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Less than two hours after the confirmation that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear he has no plans to help President Obama fill the vacancy before he steps down from office. “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,” McConnell said.

That was the same sentiment expressed by Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. “We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement,” Cruz wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not express a view one way or the other, essentially saying it was too soon to tell what would happen. “I wouldn’t make any prognostication on anything about the future because there’s so many balls in the air when those things are considered,” he told the Des Moines Register.

Others, however, were less cautious. Conn Carroll, the communications director for Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Senate judiciary committee, took to Twitter quickly after the news broke to express confidence that Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote. “What is less than zero? The chances of Obama successfully appointing a supreme court justice to replace Scalia?”

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermonth, the ranking Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also quickly spoke up and rejected the very idea that Republicans would be willing to block a nominee for the better part of a year. “I hope that no one will use this sad news to suggest that the President or the Senate should not perform its constitutional duty,” Leahy said. “The American people deserve to have a full functioning Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States is too important to our democracy for it to be understaffed for partisan reasons. It is only February. The President and the Senate should get to work without delay to nominate, consider and confirm the next justice to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Redit also called on Obama to send a nominee ASAP. “Would be unprecedented in recent history for SCOTUS to go year with vacancy. And shameful abdication of our constitutional responsibility,” Reid wrote on Twitter.

See more of Slate’s coverage of Antonin Scalia.