U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that if President Barack Obama puts forward a nominee to replace former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, she will give that nominee her “full attention.”
Speaking after an event in Portland, Collins also reiterated that she believes there will be plenty of time for a more thorough discussion about Scalia’s replacement following his funeral on Saturday.
“I think it’s appropriate for this period of mourning to pass before we get into this debate,” she said.
Scalia, 79, died at a Texas ranch on Saturday, leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court during a hotly contested presidential election.
Shortly after Scalia’s death, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, said Obama should not name a replacement for Scalia, a staunch and influential conservative justice. Instead, McConnell said the next president should get to choose. Other Republican senators, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are both seeking their party’s nomination for president, also have said forcefully that Obama has no business nominating Scalia’s replacement.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, initially said a nominee should not be taken up, but he has since modified his position slightly to say that he’ll wait until Obama releases a name before making a decision.
Democrats have accused Republicans of flouting the Constitution.
Maine’s other U.S. senator, independent Angus King, said late Tuesday that the president is obligated to put forth a nomination and the Senate is similarly obligated to take up that nomination.
“The Framers were perfectly clear on two points: the president’s term is four years, not three years and one month, and the president ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the Supreme Court,'” King said in an email Tuesday.
Asked Wednesday whether McConnell and others were wrong to politicize Scalia’s death, Collins said she would not have handled it the same way, but she also said “both sides of the aisle,” were engaging in politics. She also said that Obama, when he was a U.S. senator, tried to block the nomination of a conservative justice by then-President George W. Bush.
As one of the few moderate Republicans in the Senate, Collins could wield influence with colleagues. She fully expects Obama to put forth a nominee and said that when it happens, the Senate should give the nominee a full vetting as stated in the Constitution.
“There will be plenty of time for the process to move forward,” she said, adding that when a nominee emerges, senators “should carry out our constitutional duty.”