Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico expressed condolences over the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, while saying that President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement.
Scalia died in Texas on Saturday, and the focus almost immediately turned to who would be the conservative justice’s replacement.
Many conservatives, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said that Obama should not nominate a replacement because he is nearing the end of his second term. Obama will be in office until Jan. 20, 2017, more than 11 months from now.
Conservatives have vowed to shoot down any nominee, no matter their qualifications.
“There will be much discussion in the coming months about the future of the Court. President Obama has almost 11 months left in his presidency,” Sen Tom Udall said in a statement. “He should nominate a new justice, and the Senate should do its job and vote on the confirmation.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich was even more critical of those calling for no new nominee.
“I am disappointed that some are already shamefully suggesting a seat on our highest court should be vacant for well over a year,” Heinrich said. “Senate Republicans must meet their constitutional responsibility to confirm a qualified nominee. There is no reason beyond partisan politics to deprive the American people of a fully staffed Supreme Court.”
Both Heinrich and Uall are Democrats.
The two also praised Scalia for his time on the bench.
“Justice Scalia was a dedicated jurist and public servant,” Heinrich said. “For nearly 30 years, he served the Supreme Court with clarity and deep passion for the law. My thoughts and prayers are with Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, and his family during this difficult time.”
“Justice Scalia was a brilliant and larger-than-life presence on the Supreme Court,” Udall said. “While I almost always disagreed with him, there is no question that his decisions had a powerful impact on our nation’s policies, laws, and politics.”
Currently, there is a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. While Obama nominates a Supreme Court replacement, the Senate must make the confirmation.
For now, the nation’s highest court will operate with eight justices.
According to SCOTUSBlog, cases with tie votes will see the lower court’s decision remain with no precedent for the time, but they will be reargued in the Supreme Court’s next term.
The question of whether or not Obama should nominate a replacement is a tricky one. As there are only up to nine members of the Supreme Court at any one time, the odds that a vacancy would occur, whether by retirement or death, in the fourth year of a president’s second term are very low.
Republican presidential candidate, and U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio said that presidents often stop nominating judges in their final year. The Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact declared Rubio’s claim false.