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Obama Challenges Senate to Hold Hearings on Court Nominee

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama, taking questions after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Rancho Mirage, Calif., says there's no unwritten law saying a president cannot nominate a justice in the last year of his final term, Feb. 16, 2016.

President Barack Obama, taking questions after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Rancho Mirage, Calif., says there's no unwritten law saying a president cannot nominate a justice in the last year of his final term, Feb. 16, 2016.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. Constitution is pretty clear that when there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Senate is to consider whomever the president nominates.

Obama told reporters in Rancho Mirage, California, on Tuesday that he challenged anyone to give him a plausible rationale why the Senate would refuse to hold hearings on his choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

He said there was no unwritten law saying a president who is about to leave office because his term is expiring cannot nominate a justice.

Obama said the Supreme Court was the one part of the federal government where Americans would expect elected officials to rise above politics. He said he would do his job until the end of his term and that senators should also.

WATCH: Obama Challenges Senate on High Court Nomination Hearings

When asked whether he planned to nominate a moderate who would be more acceptable to Republicans, Obama said no. He said whoever he named would have an outstanding legal mind and would be indisputably qualified to sit on the highest court in the land.

Obama again sent his condolences to the family of Scalia, who died Saturday at age 79, leaving a vacancy on the nine-member court at a crucial time. The court is scheduled to hear several major cases involving abortion rights, voting rights, immigration and Obama's signature health care act.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who decides the Senate's agenda, has said he will refuse to hold hearings on a new Supreme Court nominee. He said the next president, who takes office in January 2017, should make that appointment.

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