While about two dozen Republican senators are saying the next president should choose a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has yet to commit.
Kirk is currently up for re-election and considered one of the more vulnerable Republican incumbents in the 2016. However, in a statement, Kirk largely danced around the question of replacing Scalia, who was found dead Saturday at a Texas ranch. "The political debate erupting about prospective nominees to fill the vacancy is unseemly, let us take the time to honor his life before the inevitable debate erupts," said Kirk, who is considered one of the more socially moderate Republican senators, one of only four who supports same-sex marriage.
Shortly after Scalia's death was announced, leading Republicans said President Barack Obama should not nominate a replacement in an election year.
"He's going to be under tremendous pressure to automatically reject the president's nominee," said Michael Ziri, director of public policy at Equality Illinois. "But we also know he's worked in a thoughtful bipartisan way."
Ziri said that it is possible for Kirk to turn supporting an appointment by Obama into a positive."Illinois moderate Republicans can win office," he said. "I think it would fit into the political tradition here and working across the aisle."
But first, Kirk needs to win next month's primary, where he faces a challenge from the more conservative businessman James Marter.
Marter said how Kirk represents Illinois in Washington is "fair game," and criticized Kirk for voting with Democrats. "I know where his past votes are on presidential appointments have been," Marter said. "He has been voting for unqualified candidates."
But Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, holds a similar position to Kirk in a statement.
"Justice Scalia has not even been buried yet," Zender's statement said. "We believe all political discussions and comments should be set aside until we can lay the man to rest that so brilliantly and humbly served our country."
Contact Garcia at EricGarcia@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @EricMGarcia