DENVER — Speaking to a packed crowd of Democrats at a Colorado fundraiser, Hillary Clinton said while she prays for the family of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died that afternoon, she’s also praying for the future of the country.
In strong language she tore into Senate Republicans, singling out their leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who had said earlier in the day the Senate should wait to confirm a new justice until after the 2016 election. He said the American people should have a voice in the process.
Responding from a podium at a downtown Sheraton hotel ballroom, Clinton called it “outrageous” that Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail have already pledged to block any replacement nominated by President Barack Obama.
“Now, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say about this in the coming days, so let me just make one point,” she said. “Barack Obama is president of the United States until January 20, 2017.”
The former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State indicated the American people have already had a voice in the process of selecting the next member of the high court.
“Elections have consequences,” she said, adding that the president has the responsibility to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. “And the U.S. Senate has a responsibility to vote.”
To the crowd of Colorado Democrats in the audience, she said the party has a responsibility to make sure a Republican doesn’t win the White House in the fall and roll back progress Democrats have made.
Clinton said she’d been thinking about something for the past few hours after news broke that Scalia had been found dead unexpectedly at a Texas ranch. Americans might hear, she said, that the confirmation process for a new Supreme Court justice might take too long for Obama to complete during his remaining days in office.
“Well,” Clinton said, “the longest successful confirmation process in the last four decades was Clarence Thomas— and that took roughly 100 days.”
Obama, she said, would have 340 days.
“Some might say, ‘Well, yes, but this is an election year,'” Clinton went on. “OK, but the confirmation for Justice Kennedy took place in 1988. That was an election year and he was confirmed 97 to nothing.”
The former Secretary said comments like McConnell’s are “totally out of step with our history and our Constitutional principles.”
Clinton wrapped up her take on the big news of the day: “Now just a few minutes ago, President Obama said he would nominate someone to the bench— and that’s exactly what he should be doing.”
Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders, her Democratic rival in the presidential race, were speaking back to back to what Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said was a record-breaking number of attendees at the party’s 83rd annual Democratic Dinner.
When Clinton finished, Sanders took the podium fresh off a 45-minute speech and rally he held blocks away in a convention center where he said he was told 18,000 had shown up.
Sanders, too, noted Scalia’s death and a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.
“It appears that some of my Republican colleagues in the Senate have a very interesting view of the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “Apparently they believe that the Constitution does not allow a Democratic president to bring forth a nominee to replace Justice Scalia. I strongly disagree with that. And I very much hope that President Obama will bring forth a strong nominee and that we can get that nominee confirmed as soon as possible.”
The United States Supreme Court has nine members, not eight, he said. “We need that ninth member.”
[Photo credit: Roger H. Goun via Flickr]