President Obama on Tuesday vowed to nominate an “indisputably qualified” candidate to the Supreme Court, forcefully rejecting Republican calls that he cede the pick to his successor because the Court vacancy comes late in his presidency and in the middle of an election year.

“There’s no unwritten law that says it can only be done on off years,” Obama said at news conference marking the end of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders. The news conference focused exclusively on domestic political concerns and Mideast strife, and was dominated by questions about picking a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last weekend while on a hunting trip in Texas. “That’s not in the constitutional text. I’m amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there.”

The president cast the standoff as more evidence of Washington dysfunction, saying the process will test whether Congress can rise above its recent history of partisan rancor to complete a fundamental constitutional task. Obama, who himself participated in an unsuccessful filibuster aimed at blocking the 2006 nomination of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said “venom and rancor” have become commonplace in the Senate’s consideration of presidential appointees. He acknowledged that both parties were to blame.

“It’s not something that I have spent a huge amount of time talking about, because frankly the American people, on average, they’re more interested in gas prices and wages and issues that touch on their day-to-day lives in a more direct way, so it doesn’t get a lot of political attention,” he said. “But this is the Supreme Court, and it’s going to get some attention.”


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