Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) spoke out on Thursday for the need of a new justice for the Supreme Court to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Hatch, who will retire after this term, praised Kennedy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday after serving for 30 years.
Hatch said that the Senate must not act in a spirit of politics when examining any nominee put forward by President Donald Trump, but must focus on the nominee's qualifications.
"With Justice Kennedy's impending retirement, the responsibility now falls on us to confirm an able replacement," Hatch said. "In the coming weeks, the President will announce his nominee to fill Justice Kennedy's seat."
"In doing so, he will seek the advice and consent of the Senate, a process that entails confirmation hearings and extended hours of debate to fully vet the qualifications of the President's nominee," Hatch said. "The questions we should ask during this confirmation hearing should focus solely on the judge's qualifications."
When asked if he had any favorite potential nominees, Hatch refused to answer and wanted to focus on whoever Trump does nominate.
Hatch told Fox News' Dana Perino that he is aware of objections raised by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and said that Schumer wants the next justice to be politically aligned with Democrats.
"I understand Senator Schumer. They feel very deeply about politicizing the Courts. They want them politicized, as long as they meet their political concerns and I don't think we should politicize them at all," Hatch said.
Kennedy's retirement, effective July 31, gives President Donald Trump the opportunity to make two appointments in two years to the nation's highest court. The vacancy sets up a bitter confirmation fight right before the midterm elections, where Republicans only have a single vote majority in the Senate. Despite the slim majority, Senate Republicans only need a 51-vote majority to confirm the Supreme Court nominee after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) changed the rules to allow it in the case of Supreme Court justice confirmations. McConnell's move followed the precedent set by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) when he eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees and presidential appointments back in 2013.