N.H. Flags Lowered In Scalia's Honor, As Officials Spar Over Plans for Replacement

Feb 16, 2016

Credit RICCARDO S. SAVI, GETTY IMAGES

Gov. Maggie Hassan ordered New Hampshire flags to half staff to honor Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died this weekend at age 79.

“Justice Scalia served our country with honor and our entire nation mourns his sudden loss,” Hassan wrote in a statement. “Tom and I send our deepest condolences to Maureen, his entire family, and his many friends, loved ones and colleagues.”

Other New Hampshire officials — including Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Frank Guinta — joined Hassan in offering condolences following Scalia’s death this weekend, But political divisions have emerged over the path toward naming a replacement.

Ayotte, in a statement released by her office Sunday night, sided with other Republicans who have called to hold off on filling the vacancy until after the presidential election.

“We’re in the midst of a consequential presidential election year, and Americans deserve an opportunity to weigh in given the significant implications this nomination could have for the Supreme Court and our country for decades to come,” Ayotte said. “I believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the American people have spoken by electing a new president.”

This stance echoes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who — within hours of the announcement of Scalia’s death — spoke out against giving Obama the opportunity to name a replacement.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," McConnell said in a statement, as reported by NPR. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

Hassan, who is challenging Ayotte in this year’s U.S. Senate race, joined a growing chorus of Democrats who’ve taken issue with Republicans’ calls to delay the confirmation process.

"Failing to take up a Supreme Court nomination is a complete abdication of the Senate's constitutional duty,” Hassan said in a statement. “Senator Ayotte's decision to put her party leaders ahead of our country is a sad reflection of just how wrong her priorities are and how broken Washington has become."

Obama has signaled that he plans to nominate a successor to replace Scalia “in due time.”

“There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” the president said this weekend.