After Scalia Death, Ted Cruz Says 2016 Election Should Be ‘A Referendum On The Supreme Court’

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Carolina Values Summit at Winthrop University Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Rock Hill, S.C.

Following the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Sunday that the 2016 election should now be about who gets to choose the next member of the country’s highest court.

“We ought to make the 2016 election a referendum on the Supreme Court,” Cruz told NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. “I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and talk about what the Supreme Court will look like depending on who wins.”

Cruz’s comments came after Todd asked whether president Obama — who still has about a year left in office — should be allowed to choose the next Supreme Court justice. Cruz said no, arguing that there’s “a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Indeed, it is rare for a president to nominate a Supreme Court justices during an election year — it has happened just five times in the last 100 years. However, Supreme Court justices have been confirmed by the Senate 17 times during presidential election years.

For what it’s worth, President Obama has already pledged to try and appoint a successor to Scalia before his term ends. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, has promised to block whoever Obama nominates.

Cruz, also a member of the Senate, said he agrees with McConnell’s decision.

“We’re advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court, that we’re going to have an election,” he said.

Before Scalia’s death, Cruz had repeatedly made the Supreme Court a centerpiece of his campaign, promising to create the most conservative bench in history if elected. He has said that changing the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court would be a huge priority for him as president — and that he would “spend whatever political capital is necessary” to appoint the most reliably conservative justices he could find.

“We are one justice away from the Supreme Court concluding that nobody in this room and no American has an individual right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz told a packed town hall meeting in Iowa last month. “We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion, and mandating unlimited abortion on demand, up until the time of birth, partial birth, with taxpayer funding, and no parental notification whatsoever. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court ordering veterans memorials torn down all over this country if they contain any acknowledgement of God Almighty.”

You can listen to Cruz’s entire musings on the Supreme Court at that town hall here: