Before we wade into the percolating political fight over how the late Antonin Scalia should be replaced as a justice of the United States Supreme Court, we first lament the loss to our nation of a remarkable man and brilliant jurist who leaves to this and future generations a significant legacy of deep legal influence.
Scalia, who served the nation's High Court for three decades, was found dead of natural causes on Feb. 13 at a resort in Texas. He was 79.
Perhaps fittingly for a towering figure of Scalia's consequence, a supreme battle quite unlike anything we have seen before looms in partisan, election-year Washington over filling the vacancy created by his death.
President Obama said he will nominate a successor to Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate will ignore the nomination, instead leaving the decision to whoever wins the election for president in November.
In our view, both President Obama and the Senate should fulfill their duties under the Constitution. In other words, Obama should nominate a man or woman to the court and the Senate should exercise its "advice and consent" responsibility, including a full, fair vetting of the nominee by the Judiciary Committee.
Given political realities, we understand moving forward with a nomination this year likely means Obama's nominee (or nominees) would be defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate, but the Senate should proceed nonetheless. In our view, refusal even to take up an Obama nomination disrespects the Constitution.
In the end, individual senators should have to explain to Americans why they oppose or support a court nominee.
We believe one valuable byproduct of this divided debate will be elevated importance of Supreme Court nominations to American voters. Because of the influence High Court justices wield over the lives of all Americans and the fact they are appointed for life, the question of who gets the powerful constitutional right to fill court vacancies should be an important consideration for voters in every presidential election.
For today, though, the current president and current Senate should deal with the current court opening.
Finally, we share a reflection on the life of Scalia. The fact the conservative Scalia was closer in friendship to liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with whom he likely agreed on few legal matters, than to any other justice on the Supreme Court testifies to the fact we can indeed disagree with one another, even profoundly, without being disagreeable.
It's one more valuable Scalia lesson from which all of us - perhaps, most important, our political leaders - can learn.