The untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia not only will change the makeup and demeanor of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it’s also safe to say that the ensuing nomination process to find his replacement on the bench will also significantly impact that the 2016 general election.
The impact of Scalia’s death instantly changed what had already been an unruly and unpredictable race for the Republican nomination for President. With the ideological balance of the court at stake, Senate Republican Mitch McConnell wasted no time on Saturday evening following the news of Scalia’s death in putting out a statement saying, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be in charge of the nomination process, echoed McConnell’s sentiment. “Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice,” Grassley stated Saturday evening.
The quick reaction of McConnell and Grassley meant that the battle lines were quickly established. In his brief remarks from California about Scalia’s passing, President Obama stated that he intends to fulfill his responsibility to nominate a successor, and added that he expects the Senate to fulfill its responsibility
“These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone,” said President Obama. “They’re bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned.”
If Scalia’s death does anything, it puts the 2016 presidential race into perspective. Regardless of which Republican presidential candidate you may favor, there is something much larger at stake – the balance of the Supreme Court. Republicans have already signaled that they plan to stall the confirmation process in order to allow whoever is elected this November to fill the vacancy caused by Scalia’s death.
Democrats were quick to call Republicans obstructionists despite Grassley and other Republicans citing the fact that no lame-duck president in recent history has nominated someone to be a Supreme Court Justice in the final year of his presidency. And while President Obama, Democrats in Congress, and their allies in the media will likely howl about the actions of the majority party in the U.S. Senate, they would do the same thing if the shoe was on the other foot.
Democrats may not like what’s about to transpire in Washington, but it’s about time that they are forced to take some of their own medicine. It was the Democrat Senate in 2009 that took a number of unprecedented moves in order to pass the Affordable Care Act. It was the Democrats in 2013 who enacted the “nuclear option” to change the long standing rules in the U.S. Senate so that the minority party could not filibuster executive branch nominations. The rule change, while controversial, did not apply to Supreme Court nominations.
Call it whatever you want -payback, poetic justice, or partisan politics, but when the balance of the Supreme Court is in play, you better believe it’s going to be a no-holds barred contest.
The Supreme Court vacancy will significantly alter the Republican presidential race and the general election that follows. Yet, regardless of who ultimately prevails, Republicans must be steadfast in their decision not to allow President Obama to replace to Justice Scalia, who served as the conservative cornerstone on the court for nearly 30 years with liberal jurists who surely will see no problem with a president who routinely acts outside of the boundaries set forth by the constitution.
Conservatives and Republicans need to prepare for battle. It’s going to be the most intense election in history now that so much is on the line.