Bernie Sanders Hopes President Obama Nominates Replacement for Scalia 'As Soon As Possible'

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks during a campaign stop at the Pinkerton Academy Stockbridge Theatre, Feb. 8, 2016, in Derry, N.H.PlayJohn Minchillo/AP Photo
WATCH Obama: Justice Scalia Dedicated His Life to the Cornerstone of Our Democracy, the Rule of Law

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders hopes President Obama nominates a replacement “as soon as possible” for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in Texas Saturday.

“President Obama, in my view, should make that nomination,” Sanders said on ABC's “This Week.” “I hope he does it as soon as possible and I hope that the Senate confirms and begins deliberations as soon as possible.”

The unexpected death of the conservative justice sparked a charged political debate in Washington about who should nominate his successor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the vacancy should not be filled until a new president is elected.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," he said in a statement Saturday. "This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

“I don't think that Mitch McConnell has it right on this issue,” Sanders told "This Week." “The Constitution is pretty clear and that it is the job of the president of the United States to appoint [and] nominate members to the Supreme Court and the Senate confirms.”

The Vermont senator warned the public would not look kindly on “Republican actions to try to thwart” President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination.

“When there is a vacancy, the president makes a nomination and the Senate deliberates and then votes up or down,” Sanders said. "I hope that happens."

Sanders said he had one litmus test for anyone he would potentially nominate to serve on the Supreme Court -- that the new justice would overturn the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled corporations or unions could spend unlimited amounts of money to support or denounce candidates in elections.

"I would never nominate anybody to the Supreme Court who is not prepared to overturn that disastrous decision," he said.

The Democratic presidential candidate acknowledged his political views were very different than Scalia’s, but he applauded him for his years of public service.

“He was clearly a brilliant man, very outspoken, very forceful,” Sanders said.