President Obama on Tuesday said he will nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court despite calls from Republicans that he wait until his replacement is elected.
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen," Obama told reporters in Rancho Mirage, California, his first since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday. "When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the President of the United States is to nominate someone."
Obama also praised Scalia's legacy.
"Obviously, Justice Scalia and I had different political orientations," he said. "But there is no doubt he was a giant in the Supreme Court. It's important, before we rush into the politics of all of this, that we take stock of someone who did an enormous service to the United States."
Obama declined to name a nominee or even say whether he would nominate a moderate in hopes of convincing Republicans to hold a hearing. He did say, however, that his nominee would be "extremely qualified" and that there would not establish a litmus test based on "a particular position in a particular issue."
Obama added that he was convinced there was enough time to conduct a normal nomination and confirmation process, and decried what he said was a breakdown in "the basic functions of government" caused by Republicans insisting on fighting all nominations.
"I would challenge anyone who purports to be adhering to the original intent of the founders, anybody who believes in the Constitution, to come up with a plausible rationale as to why they wouldn't even have a hearing for a nominee," Obama said.
Republican legislators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said the Senate will not even hold a hearing on a nominee after the election. However, on Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who wields great power over the nomination process, said he would consider holding a hearing depending on the nominee.
“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions," said Grassley, who serves as the chair of the Senate's judiciary committee, according to the New York Times.
At the news conference, Obama also criticized Republican presidential candidates for what he called inflammatory views on Islam, immigration, and climate change. In particular, he criticized Donald Trump.
"I continue to believe Donald Trump will not be president," Obama said. "And that’s because I have a lot of faith in the American people. They know that being president is a serious job."