LePage says Congress should follow Constitution on Supreme Court vacancy

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AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday added his voice to the ongoing debate regarding the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created with the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia last Saturday.

LePage sided with former governor and U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, saying President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement for Scalia.

“I’m a big constitutionalist,” LePage said. “If it’s in the Constitution, I think it means something.”

King said Wednesday that those who wrote the Constitution made the process “perfectly clear.”

“The framers were perfectly clear on two points: The president’s term is four years, not three years and one month, and the president ‘shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint,'” King said in a prepared statement.

LePage’s view is also similar, in some ways, to that of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who said Wednesday she too believes the Congress and Obama should replace justices based on the process outlined in the Constitution.

“As the Senate, our constitutional responsibility is to review all Supreme Court nominees. This process requires a careful consideration of his or her intellect, background, experience, temperament and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law,” Collins said.

“This is the approach I have taken with every judicial nominee that’s come before me, some of whom I have ended up supporting and some of whom I have voted against. Should the president send the Senate a nominee, I will give the nominee my full attention and I will carefully vet him or her the way that I always do.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Augusta were proceeding with a confirmation hearing for LePage’s reappointment of Leigh Saufley as chief justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Saufley was first appointed to the state’s highest court by King, but has since been reappointed by former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat and LePage, a Republican.

Some leading Republicans in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have said Scalia’s replacement should be nominated by the next president and not Obama.

LePage said he would not predict how things will play out in Washington or even Augusta, for that matter.

“I have no clue what the federal government is going to do and I have no clue what the state Legislature is going to do, so I don’t even worry about it,” he said.

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