Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) --- Republicans' most senior senator and the chamber's president pro tem -- said he believed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is eligible to be president, but that the Supreme Court "in this raucous day and age" might disagree.

"Well, I admit, that issue hasn't been decided by the Supreme Court," Hatch said on CNN Wednesday, when asked about Donald Trump's threats to sue Cruz over whether his birth in Canada disqualified him for the presidency.

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President Obama punched back Tuesday at Republicans who have threatened to delay the nomination of a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia until there is a new president.

"The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now," the president wryly noted. “There's no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off-years.”

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Republican Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), speaking on a radio show Tuesday morning, cautioned against objecting to a Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama "sight unseen," ThinkProgress reported.

“I think we fall into the trap if just simply say sight unseen, we fall into the trap of being obstructionists,” Tillis told The Tyler Cralle Show. The comment was at odds with statements made by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other GOP leaders soon after Justice Antonin Scalia's surprise death that a successor shouldn't be considered until after a new president is inaugurated because it is an election year.

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Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush, broke from Republican Party line by suggesting repeatedly over the weekend that a nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia shouldn't wait for the next president.

"If the shoe were on the other foot, and there was a Republican in the White House and Democratically controlled Congress, I would expect the Republican president to make a nomination when ready of a qualified individual," Gonzales said on the BBC.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- the next in line behind Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to lead Democrats in the Senate -- pushed back at Republicans who are using a 2007 speech he gave to justify their plan to block any nominee President Obama puts forward to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Schumer said Republicans are taking his speech out of context and that comparing what Schumer said then to the situation now is "apples to oranges."

"In short, Senator McConnell’s attempt to justify his unprecedented obstruction with my speech is completely misleading and patently false," Schumer said in a post on Medium Tuesday.

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The entire current legal strategy of the conservative legal movement has been stymied by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His unexpected passing robs conservatives of the 5-4 advantage they had on the Supreme Court at the very moment they were making arguably their most aggressive play yet to cement some their most cherished and longest sought legal gains, in areas like abortion, voting rights, and affirmative action.

While much of the immediate focus after Scalia's death over the weekend was on the long game of who replaces him, and when, the impact is far more immediate and potentially historic. Even if a Republican president ultimately names Scalia's successor, the conservative legal movement will have suffered a dramatic setback by virtue of how many important cases it had queued up for this year that will be thrown into turmoil by a court with only eight justices and the potential for 4-4 tie votes.

With a number of high-stakes cases at or heading towards the Supreme Court, conservative legal advocates face a situation where they are unlikely to get the sweeping decisions they were hoping for, especially in the cases specifically designed to roll back progressive policies. Even any favorable outcomes in some of the test cases they lined up for the high court are now in jeopardy.

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Senate Republicans can claim some precedence for blocking any of President Obama’s nominees to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia until a new president is elected -- if they reach back to the mid-1800s.

The GOP’s insistence -- immediately upon news of Scalia's death -- that the Supreme Court must wait until the next president to gets its ninth seat refilled is not unprecedented, but is nonetheless very rare. In fact, all the unsuccessful Supreme Court nominees of the last century ran into problems because of their own traits, rather than some arbitrary obstruction aimed at the president.

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The GOP's presidential contenders had an opportunity at Saturday’s CBS debate to weigh in on what should happen next after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The candidates for the most part urged the GOP Senate to block any appointees put forward by President Obama.

Donald Trump perhaps most explicitly acknowledged the partisan dynamics of the coming fight over a potential Supreme Court nomination, when asked if he would put forward a nomination if he was in Obama’s position.

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