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The flap over whether President Barack Obama should make a nomination to fill the U.S. Supreme Court’s vacancy has pitted Pennsylvania's two senators on opposite sides of the debate.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey held firm to his view that the next president should make the nomination, and he said Thursday that it’s very unlikely that he or a Senate majority would support Obama’s nominee.

“It’s very unlikely that any nominee, however well qualified, could reach the level that would be necessary to satisfy both sets of criteria,” Toomey told The Associated Press. “And for that reason, it might be just as well not to have a hearing that would, sort of, might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate, because it’s bigger than that.”

The president has said he will make a nomination this year.,

“I think the question before us now is … should the outgoing president fundamentally change the balance of the court for the next one or two generations?” Toomey said. “I don’t think that’s reasonable. I think that it’s more reasonable for the American people to have a more direct say in that process, which they will do through the election of the president, knowing now with certainty that the next president is going to make this really important pick.”

Responses: On the other side of the debate, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, as well as three Democrats seeking to unseat Toomey in the election, said they support Obama in fulfilling his constitutional duty to nominate someone to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13.

"The idea, voiced by some Senate Republicans, that they would cripple the highest court of the land for a year by refusing to consider a nominee is irresponsible and an abrogation of the Senate's obligations," Casey said in a statement.

Candidates Joe Sestak, the former admiral and congressman; John Fetterman, a York County native and mayor of Braddock; Katie McGinty, former aide to Gov. Tom Wolf, have also weighed in.

"Weighing a nominee's qualifications is precisely what hearings are meant for, not at all the partisan political weighing of whether the nominee is from a president of a particular party," Sestak said in a statement. "With so many pressing issues before the court like the Voting Rights Act, protecting women’s right to choose, reversing Citizens’ United and affirming the need to regulate polluters, the Senate must act swiftly to consider President Obama’s eventual nominee to the court."

In an email to supporters, McGinty's camp called the GOP commitment to block a nomination by a sitting president "despicable."

"This is just another failure of leadership by Toomey who clearly prefers to have the balance of the court determined by Ted Cruz or another passenger in the Republican clown car that is currently their presidential field," Fetterman said.

"It's no surprise that Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak are distorting Sen. Toomey's comments instead of reflecting on their shared inability to reach across the aisle. It was McGinty's unanimously rejected proposal and toxic partisan leadership that started the still-unresolved Harrisburg budget crisis, while Congressman Sestak voted with Nancy Pelosi a staggering 97 percent of the time while in the House," Steve Kelly, spokesman for Toomey's campaign, said in response to the comments.

Outside: U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, said constituents have been sharing their views on the debate since Scalia's death last weekend.

Some said the GOP senators are being obstructionists, while others said the president should not put forth a nomination, Perry said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Though the House of Representatives doesn't have a hand in the appointment process, Perry will have a front-seat view of the action.

He said he'd be disappointed if the Senate doesn't take up nomination hearings, which could further polarize Washington, D.C., but he would also be disappointed if the president makes a purely political nomination.

"It's absolutely his (Obama's) prerogative to nominate. It's not like they have to appoint his nomination," Perry said. "We've got to get past that stuff (the debate). This is our country."

If anything, the debate has highlighted the importance of the Supreme Court and the people selected to sit on its bench, he said.

"It elevates the Supreme Court," Perry said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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