During their latest debate, Republican White House hopefuls called for President Barack Obama to allow his successor to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, following the death of ultra-conservative judge Antonin Scalia.
Only Jeb Bush said Obama had “every right” to nominate a justice during his final year in office.
The former governor of Florida said there should be “consensus orientation on that nomination”, but added that he did not expect Obama would pick a candidate in that vein.
The five other candidates on the stage in the debate in Greenville, South Carolina, urged the Republican-led Senate to block any attempts by the president to get his third nominee on the court.
“It’s up to [Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it,” said Donald Trump. “It’s called delay, delay, delay.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton said Obama had the right to nominate another justice. He “is president of the United States until January 20, 2017. That is a fact my friends, whether the Republicans like it or not,” she said.
“Let’s get on with it,” said left-wing challenger Bernie Sanders, arguing that the Senate should vote on whoever Obama nominated.
Trump and Bush tangled in some of the night’s most biting exchanges, highlighting the bad blood between the property mogul who leads the Republican field and the former Florida governor who was once expected to sail to the nomination.
In a particularly heated confrontation, Trump accused Bush’s brother, former president George W Bush, of having lied to the public about the Iraq war.
“Obviously the war in Iraq was a big fat mistake,” Trump said.
Jeb Bush, who has been among the most aggressive Republican candidates in taking on Trump, said while he did not mind him criticising him — “It’s blood sport for him” — he was “sick and tired of him going after my family”.
Trump was jeered lustily by the audience in a state where the Bush family is popular with Republicans. George W Bush plans to campaign with his brother in Charleston today.
Candidates used Scalia’s sudden death to raise the stakes for the election. Ted Cruz cast the moment in stark terms, saying allowing another Obama nominee to be approved would amount to Republicans giving up control of the Supreme Court for a generation.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved