Maine Sen. Angus King is backing President Obama in his fight with Republicans over whether the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia should wait until the next president takes office in January 2017.

Sen. Susan Collins, one of the moderate Republicans who could play a role in deciding whether any nomination is considered by the Republican-controlled Senate this year, hasn’t taken a position on the brewing controversy.

King sees the issue as a straightforward case of the responsibilities and duties laid out by the Constitution.

“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.

“To delay the consideration of a nomination for almost a full year would be nothing more than the cynical politics that people in Maine and across the country are tired of. I was sent here to do a job, and if the president nominates someone, then I hope I’ll have the opportunity to give them the proper merit-based consideration that is due to such a significant position.”

Obama has said he plans to nominate a new justice in the coming weeks, and on Tuesday he upbraided Senate Republicans who have said the vacancy shouldn’t be filled until a new president takes office.


“I intend to do my job between now and Jan. 20 of 2017,” Obama told reporters at a news conference in Rancho Mirage, California. He said of the nation’s senators: “I expect them to do their job as well.”

Collins did issue a statement Tuesday morning that criticized those who immediately began talking about the nomination and its political ramifications.

“It seems premature for Washington to be speculating so soon about a new Supreme Court nominee given that Justice Scalia died so recently and unexpectedly,” she said. Collins also said that Supreme Court nominees “warrant in-depth consideration given the importance of their constitutional role and their lifetime tenure.”

She supported Obama’s previous Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.

Scalia, an influential conservative, died Saturday at a resort in West Texas. His unexpected death at 79 has introduced a new dynamic to the 2016 presidential race as Republican candidates seek to convince voters that picking Scalia’s replacement should fall to the next president.

Within hours of Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying the Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled by Obama and should be left to whoever is elected in November. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican running for president, vowed Sunday to filibuster any nomination made by Obama to replace Scalia. And Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican running for re-election this year, on Sunday joined many of her colleagues by saying she opposed confirmation of a new Supreme Court nominee before the November election.


Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he backs McConnell’s view that Obama’s successor should make the appointment. However, in an indication that Republican resistance to a nomination might be weakening, Grassley said Tuesday that he wouldn’t rule out having his committee hold confirmation hearings and a vote on an Obama nominee, the Associated Press reported.

“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decision,” Grassley said during a phone conference with reporters. “In other words, take it a step at a time.”

A White House spokesman told reporters on Monday that Obama has begun preliminary discussions with his advisers on whom to nominate to replace Scalia.

The body of the late justice will lie in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. A funeral will be held Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., The AP said.

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