President Obama’s background in constitutional law is coming in handy this week, as countless Republican obstructionists hone their strategies for thwarting any attempts to install the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor before Obama’s own replacement takes over the Oval Office.

The president drew heavily upon his knowledge of America’s foundational text Tuesday as he attempted to school the opposition about what exactly the Constitution spells out for just this situation, as The New York Times reported:

“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference after a meeting in California with leaders of Southeast Asia. He said the Constitution demands that a president nominate someone for the court and the Senate either confirms or rejects.

“There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not in the Constitutional text.”

Mr. Obama said he understood the political stakes of a nomination that could change the balance on the court. “I understand the pressure that Republican senators are now under,” he said. “This would be a deciding vote.”

But the president said the Supreme Court ought to be above political gamesmanship. “This will be a test of whether rules, norms, and fair play can function at all in Washington,” he said.

Recent history, as well as the general spirit of division that has reigned for years in Washington, would suggest that this latest test, too, will fail. Meanwhile, Obama is doing his part to push a nominee through the inevitable roadblocks to the nation’s top court by carefully picking someone who, as he put it, is “indisputably qualified” for the job.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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