President Obama spoke at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Rancho Mirage, CA on Tuesday to outline his commitments to promote peace in southeast Asia, encourage businesses and pursue clean energy. Yet, the first question he fielded from the press was, unsurprisingly, about his intentions for the Supreme Court vacancy after Antonin Scalia’s passing.
A reporter from the Associated Press asked the president what he will do if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes good on his pledged to block his judicial nominee.
Obama first responded by reiterating his heartfelt condolences to the Scalia family.
“He was a giant on the Supreme Court,” Obama said. “He was a good friend.”
The president then proceeded to give a minutes-long rant about his constitutional duty to nominate a replacement and the Senate obstructionism that may prevent the process from going forward.
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now,” Obama said. “When there is a vacancy, the president of the United States is to nominate someone. The Senate is to consider that nomination and either they disapprove of that nominee or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court. Historically, this has not been viewed as a question."
"There’s no unwritten law it can only be done in off years," he added. “I’m amused when people who claim to be strict, reading into a series of provisions that are not there."
The president’s frustrated tone could be heard as he continued to talk about the way we’ve become “accustomed” to every nomination being blocked thanks to political gridlock. “I’ve got 14 nominations that have been pending,” he noted.
He then insisted Congress should have no arguments with who he nominates. He or she will be “someone who cares about rule of law.”
“I’m going to present somebody who is indisputably qualified for the seat,” he said. “Any fair-minded person,” even someone who disagrees with his policies, “would say they would serve with honor and integrity on the court.”
Another reporter asked if his comments mean he will nominate a “moderate.”
“No,” he said. “I don’t know where you got that.”
Republicans, he said, will undoubtedly be “pressured” to vote against whoever he puts forward. But, he said there’s more than enough time for the Senate to consider his nominee.
“I intend to do my job,” he concluded.