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Obama vows to press ahead with Supreme Court nominee

US President Barack Obama has promised to press ahead with a Supreme Court nominee with an "independent mind." The announcement came even as Republican Senate leaders insist they will not even consider a candidate.

US President Barack Obama is vowing to put forward a nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat made vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia earlier this month. His statement came as

Republican Senate leaders insisted they will not open debate over whomever the president chooses.

Writing on the independent website scotusblog.com (SCOTUS meaning Supreme Court Of The United States), Obama described the qualities he would seek in a candidate to

replace Scalia, who died earlier this month at the age of 79.

Obama didn't say when he would announce a candidate, but insists his choice "will be eminently qualified." He said the next potential justice, like all others on the court, should have a mastery of the law and ability to give clear answers to complicated legal questions.

"The person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary's role; who understands that a judge's job is to interpret the law, not make the law," Obama wrote.

The president added that a candidate's real-life experience will be another important factor in his selection. A candidate needs to understand that the law isn't just abstract legal theory but "affects the daily reality of people's lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times."

Scalia tilted the court

Head shot of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Scalia was a strident conservative whose vote tilted the nine-member court to the right. Without Scalia the court is now ideologically deadlocked at 4-4.

The US Constitution calls for the president to nominate judicial candidates to the high court. Obama said he will fulfill his constitutional responsibility and urged Republican senators to do the same.

The Senate is obligated to confirm or reject a president's nominee, specifically to "advise and consent," according to the US Constitution. Ignoring the president's selection outright by not even holding hearings to review a candidate's qualifications

appears to be at odds with the Constitution,

but is the strategy being pursued by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Republicans hold a 54-46 majority in the 100-seat chamber, but they have to defend more than 20 seats in November's election and six of them will be closely contested.

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is one of the Republican senators facing a tough re-election campaign, has broken ranks with his party and says the Senate should at least give a fair hearing to any Supreme Court candidate Obama appoints.

Whether this will compel other Republican senators to shift their position remains uncertain.

The Senate's failure to act means

the evenly divided Supreme Court would be hobbled for more than a year.

In his blog post Obama wrote, "I hope [the Senate] will move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the court can continue to serve the American people at full strength."

bik/sms (AP, Reuters)

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