MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who is locked in a tough re-election contest in Wisconsin, does not want President Barack Obama to nominate a replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Whether Obama or the next president should nominate a replacement for Scalia, who was found dead Saturday, is suddenly an issue in Johnson’s and other Senate races, as well as the campaign for president. Many Republicans are saying the decision should wait for the president elected in November, while Democrats say there is no reason for Obama not to fulfill his Constitutional duty to name a successor for the current Senate to confirm.
“I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate,” Johnson said in a statement released Sunday. “America needs Supreme Court justices who share Justice Scalia’s commitment to applying the Constitution as written and to the freedom it secures.”
Johnson is being challenged by Democrat Russ Feingold, who served 18 years in the Senate before losing to Johnson in 2010. It is one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, as Democrats see it as a potential seat to pick up as they try to regain the majority.
Feingold aligned himself with other Democrats, including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who want Obama to move forward with a nominee to replace Scalia.
“The Supreme Court plays a unique role applying the Constitution to important questions of American life and business, and I expect the president to nominate a new justice, as the Constitution requires,” Feingold said in a statement. “The Senate must then do its job by working in a bipartisan way to vote on the nominee.”
Scalia was found dead Saturday morning at private residence in the Big Bend area of West Texas.
Obama said Saturday that he would nominate a successor “in due time,” angering Republicans who said the decision should not be his.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Scalia led the conservative majority on the court, which often decides cases 5-4, filling the naming of his replacement in an election year with repercussions for those running for both president and Senate.
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