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Hoeven: People should have say in Scalia successor

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death this weekend immediately sparked a debate over when the sudden vacancy on the nation's highest court should be filled, and it's now creating disagreements between North Dakota's senators.

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before a House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing on The Administrative Conference of the United States on Capitol Hill in Washington in this May 20, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files)
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WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death this weekend immediately sparked a debate over when the sudden vacancy on the nation's highest court should be filled, and it's now creating disagreements between North Dakota's senators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Republican presidential candidates have argued the vacancy should be filled after November's presidential election. In a statement on Monday, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., agreed.

"There is 80 years of precedent for not nominating and confirming a new justice of the Supreme Court in the final year of a president's term so that people can have a say in this very important decision," he said. "Further, the people should have a say because the Supreme Court will be ruling on many important issues for our state and nation, including challenges to costly new energy regulations."

The coming election has intensified the debate over the nomination process because of the Supreme Court's makeup. The nine-member court has been generally seen as having five conservatives, but Scalia's death creates an even split and means his successor could shift the court's ideological dynamics.

President Barack Obama has already said he plans to nominate Scalia's successor "in due time," and Senate Democrats in North Dakota and Minnesota agreed the process should not be delayed.

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"It's now the responsibility of the President to nominate someone to fill that position--and for the U.S. Senate to fully vet and consider that nominee--in a timely fashion," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in an emailed statement. "Other justices have been confirmed in the final year of a president's term and it would be irresponsible of the U.S. Senate to keep the court from working at its full capacity for political reasons."

On average, 67 days elapsed between the nomination and final Senate vote for the 14 people nominated for the Supreme Court since 1975, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service study.

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