Debate: GOP contenders say no court nominee

Posted at 8:03 PM, Feb 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-13 22:03:17-05
Republican White House hopefuls declared that President Barack Obama should step aside and allow his successor to nominate the next Supreme Court justice as they opened a debate jolted by Saturday's death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Only Jeb Bush said Obama had "every right" to nominate a justice during his final year in office. The former Florida governor said there should be a consensus behind that choice -- but added that he didn't expect Obama would pick a candidate in that vain.
The five other candidates on the stage Saturday urged the Republican-led Senate to block any attempts by the president to get his third nominee on the court.
"It's up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it," Donald Trump said. "It's called delay, delay, delay."
Texas Sen. 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. An uncompromising conservative, Cruz urged voters to consider who among the GOP candidates would nominate the most ideologically pure justices.
Scalia died hours before the debate, thrusting the future of the court into the center of an already heated presidential election.
Just six contenders took the debate stage, far from the long line of candidates who participated in earlier GOP events. But even with a streamlined field, the Republican race remains deeply uncertain.
Trump and Bush tangled in some of the night's most heated exchanges, trading barbs on everything from Middle East policy to the Bush's prominent political family.
The billionaire businessman accused former President George W. Bush's administration of having lied to the country about intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"Obviously the war in Iraq was a big fat mistake," Trump said.
Bush, who has been among the most aggressive Republican candidates in taking on Trump, said that while he doesn't mind the real estate mogul criticizing him -- "It's blood sport for him" -- he is "sick and tired of him going after my family."
Trump was jeered lustily by the audience in Greenville, South Carolina, a state where the Bush family is popular with Republicans. George W. Bush plans to campaign with his brother in Charleston on Monday, his first direct foray into the 2016 race.