Within minutes of the confirmation of the news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died, influential conservatives were laying down the notion that President Obama shouldn't be allowed to nominate a replacement.
Presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led the charge:
Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 13, 2016
Conn Carroll, communications director for Utah Republican Mike Lee, who sits on the judiciary committee, joined the parade:
What is less than zero? The chances of Obama successfully appointing a Supreme Court Justice to replace Scalia?— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) February 13, 2016
If anything this will put a full stop to all Obama judicial nominees going forward.— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) February 13, 2016
Conservative pundits like National Review's Charles Cooke agreed:
Senate must simply refuse to appoint anybody. Would be outrageous to replace a giant like Scalia with a minnow like Sotomayor.— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) February 13, 2016
The dynamics of the presidential race make it likely that the other Republican contenders will have to follow Cruz's lead, and with the GOP presidential field unanimously opposed to allowing Obama to fill the vacancy it will be difficult for Senate Republicans to defy them. The small number of Republicans representing blue states may break from the pack, but pressure on the leadership to block confirmation will be intense.
Will be interesting to see if Kirk, Ayotte, Toomey, Johnson and Portman agree with noxious Cruz.— David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) February 13, 2016
As a precedent on the other side, Justice Kennedy was confirmed in February 1988 — Ronald Reagan's last year in office — though he'd been appointed the previous fall.