US Republican Senator Jeff Flake has censured his party’s stance on President Barack Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court, saying the vacant seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia should not be left for the next president to fill.
In an interview with The Daily Beast published on Monday, the US senator said nobody in the Republican Party “really believes” a Supreme Court seat should remain vacant until the next president is sworn in.
“Our position shouldn’t be that the next president ought to decide. Nobody really believes that, because if this were the last year of a Republican presidency nobody would say that,” Flake said.
The Arizona senator made the remarks as his Republican Senate colleagues have been turning a blind eye to Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Flake noted that the Senate’s position “ought to be to confirm the most conservative justice to replace Scalia,” to maintain balance between Republicans and Democrats.
“That ought to be the principle, and that would allow for us to go with Garland if the alternative is somebody more liberal,” he added.
Scalia, who died in February at the age of 79, was the court’s longest-serving member and the intellectual anchor in the Supreme Court’s conservative wing.
Justices are nominated for life by the president and are confirmed by the Senate by majority vote.
Republicans have called on Obama to refrain from choosing a successor to the conservative-leaning Scalia and leave the decision for the next president.
But the Democrats urged the president to introduce a new figure for the top portfolio. Replacing Scalia with a Democrat-appointed justice could alter the balance of the court.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said failure to act would be a “shameful abdication” of the Senate’s constitutional duty.