By Jeff Mason
President Barack Obama has vowed to pick an indisputably qualified nominee for the Supreme Court and chided Republicans who control the US Senate for threatening to block him from filling the pivotal vacancy.
Obama told senators he has a constitutional duty to nominate a new justice after Saturday's death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and reminded them of their constitutional obligation to "do their job" and vote to approve or reject his nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the seat on the nation's highest court should remain vacant until Obama's successor takes office in January so voters can have a say on the selection when they cast ballots in the November 8 presidential election.
"I'm amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there," Obama said.
"The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now," Obama, a former constitutional law professor, told a news conference at the close of a two-day meeting with leaders from Southeast Asia.
In Washington, Scalia's chair in the court's ornate chamber was draped with black wool crepe in accordance with court tradition following a justice's death.
The court said Scalia's body will lie in repose at the Supreme Court building on Friday before his funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Saturday.
Obama's nominee could shift the balance of power on the court, which had five conservatives and four liberals before Scalia's death.
The president said he understood the high stakes for Republican senators under pressure to vote against his pick for the lifetime appointment, who conceivably would be the deciding vote in cases where the court is split.