Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the bench, came out sharply against Republican leaders in the political fight that has erupted since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
O'Connor said that President Barack Obama should be permitted to name a replacement for the late justice. Her comments, made in an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix, were a rebuke to Republicans who have said they wouldn’t be willing to entertain an Obama nominee to replace Scalia’s seat on the high court.
"I don’t agree. I think we need somebody there now to do the job, and let’s get on with it," she said.
The retired justice also rejected Republicans’ argument that in an election year, the president has lost his popular mandate to make an appointment. The stakes of leaving a seat empty for more than a year are too high to reject compromise.
"You just have to pick the best person you can under the circumstances as the appointing authority must do, and one that we care about as a nation and as a people," she added. "And I wish the president well as he makes choices and goes down that line. It’s hard."
O’Connor was the first woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, fulfilling Reagan’s campaign promise that he would name a woman at the first opportunity. Though O’Connor was an elected Republican before assuming her seat on the Supreme Court, she showed a tendency toward moderation, ruling in favor of race-based affirmative action and restrictions on campaign contributions.