The six remaining GOP presidential candidates on Saturday agreed the Republican-controlled Senate should block anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court to fill Justice Antonin Scalia's seat.
News of Scalia's sudden death spread only a few hours before the 2016 presidential contenders gathered on the debate stage in Greenville, South Carolina.
"This is a tremendous blow to conservatism. It's a tremendous blow, frankly, to our country," Donald Trump said, responding to the first question at the debate hosted by CBS News. "If I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice," he said. But he added, "I think it's up to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It's called delay, delay, delay."
Just minutes before the debate began, President Obama delivered a brief on-camera statement from California on Scalia's death. Mr. Obama said he plans to fulfill his "constitutional responsibilities" to nominate Justice Scalia's successor "in due time."
But Mr. Obama's forthcoming appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, and because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, they can use the filibuster to delay.
After the news broke, McConnell released a statement saying that the Senate should wait 11 months for the next president to be sworn in before confirming a new Supreme Court justice.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who came in second place in last Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, said at the debate that he wished Scalia's death didn't have to immediately spark a political debate and partisan fight.
"I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody," Kasich said. "I think we ought to let the next president of the United States decide who is going to run the Supreme Court with a vote by the people of the United States of America."
"I fully agree that we should not allow a judge to be appointed during his time," said retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who said that the concept of lifetime appointments to the high court "needs to be looked at pretty carefully at some point.".
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, agreed that Mr. Obama shouldn't nominate Scalia's successor.
"It's not unprecedented," he said. "It's been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice."
While President Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy in late 1987, Kennedy was confirmed just a few months later in a presidential election year.
Asked if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would have a litmus test to vet potential Supreme Court nominees, he said "not on specific issues."
"The simple fact is the next president needs to appoint someone with a proven conservative record, similar to Justice Scalia," Bush said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the Republican-controlled Senate must "stand strong" and block any nominees Mr. Obama sends to Capitol Hill.
"The Senate needs to stand strong and say, 'We're not gonna give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee."
Scalia, 79, was found dead Saturday in his room at a West Texas resort, CBS News confirmed. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service said he appeared to die of natural causes.