AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage added his voice Thursday to the debate regarding the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday.

LePage sided with former governor and U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, saying President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement for Scalia.

“I’m a big constitutionalist,” LePage said. “If it’s in the Constitution, I think it means something.”

King said Wednesday those who wrote the Constitution made the process “perfectly clear.”

“The framers were perfectly clear on two points: the president’s term is four years, not three years and one month, and the president ‘shall nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint,” King said in a prepared statement.

LePage’s view also is similar, in some ways, to that of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who said Wednesday she too believes that Congress and Obama should replace justices based on the process outlined in the Constitution.

“As the Senate, our constitutional responsibility is to review all Supreme Court nominees. This process requires a careful consideration of his or her intellect, background, experience, temperament and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law,” Collins said. “This is the approach I have taken with every judicial nominee that’s come before me, some of whom I have ended up supporting and some of whom I have voted against.”

Some leading Republicans, however, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have said Scalia’s replacement should be nominated by the next president, not Obama.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Augusta held a confirmation hearing Thursday for LePage’s re-appointment of Leigh Saufley as chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Saufley was first appointed to the state’s highest court by King but has since been re-appointed by former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, and LePage, a Republican.

LePage said he not would predict how things will play out in Washington or even Augusta for that matter.

“I have no clue what the federal government is going to do, and I have no clue what the state Legislature is going to do, so I don’t even worry about it,” LePage said.

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.