On Saturday, February 13th, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away of natural causes, leaving an open spot on the Supreme Court. Scalia was called an “unwavering defender of the written Constitution” by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and known as patriot and a man of God. Scalia’s death comes at an interesting time, because of how close it is to the end of President Barack Obama’s term. Because the Senate is currently Republican-led, they are unlikely to confirm anybody who is nominated by President Obama as the new Justice. However, President Obama did state that he plans to nominate a successor as a part of his constitutional duty to fill the vacancy.
In order to replace Justice Scalia, the constitution states that the President shall nominate a successor, and the Senate will confirm the nomination. The Senate can reject any nominee, and the President can nominate anyone. The Senate does not have to give any reason for rejecting a certain person.
Politicians are split as to whether President Obama should nominate the next justice, or as to whether the next President should be the one to nominate a justice. Republican senator Marco Rubio stated that he “[does] not believe that the President should appoint someone”, because he is not in favor of a liberal judge. On the other hand, Democrat former senator Hillary Clinton said that, ““Barack Obama is President of the United States until January 20, 2017. That is a fact, my friends, whether the Republicans like it or not. Elections have consequences. The President has a responsibility to nominate a new justice and the Senate has a responsibility to vote,” showing how she is in favor of a liberal justice.
Right now, the Supreme Court has a number of controversial cases before it, dealing with issues such as abortion, affirmative action, the First Amendment rights of non-union members, immigration and many others. Because the Supreme Court now has eight justices rather than nine, there may be many cases where the vote is split with a 4-4 tie. The issue of a new Supreme Court justice will be another influential issue in the 2016 Presidential election because whoever becomes the new Supreme Court justice will have a say in decisions that affect the everyday lives of the American people. Scalia had a consistent conservative vote, as he was opposed to abortion rights and affirmative action; limits on campaign spending, LGBTQA rights and separation of church and state. If his successor is a liberal, many court decisions may swing the other way.
Scalia was a very vital and important part of the justice system of the United States and his absence will be felt. We would like to thank him for all of the constitutional principles that he upheld during his time as a Supreme Court justice, and hope that his successor is just as adept to the Constitution as he is.