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Tension Rises Over Justice Antonin Scalia’s Successor


1Photo credit: Public Domain

We’re on the brink of a showdown here, one that will define a political year that we thought couldn’t get more tumultuous. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of a heart attack this Saturday at a resort in West Texas and apparently, one empty seat on the Supreme Court is enough to cause a hurricane of events and lunge the whole of Washington into a new political reality just two days after Scalia’s sudden death. The tempestuous race for the White House just got even more turbulent.

Logically, the whole country is in shock, but that’s not enough to diminish the public interest in what’s going to happen next. President Barack Obama and his GOP adversaries have probably already begun digging deep trenches for a showdown regarding who will succeed Supreme Court Justice Scalia. Obama broke the ice when he claimed he would wholeheartedly defy Republican leaders and presidential candidates who expressed their discontent over him putting his nose into the matter. Apparently, Republicans believe that he should leave the momentous task of nominating a new justice to a new administration in order to avoid tipping the balance of the Court to liberals.

However, it doesn’t appear that everybody’s in such a rush. The White House signaled Sunday that Obama, who is attending a summit of south-east Asian leaders in California, won’t momentarily rush to jam the Senate – in fact, the Senate is on recess for the next week, so electing a new Supreme Court nominee will have to wait until then. White house spokesman Eric Schultz said Sunday:

“We don’t expect the President to rush this through this week, but instead, will do so in due time once the Senate returns from their recess. At that point, we expect the Senate to consider that nominee, consistent with their responsibilities laid out in the United States Constitution.”

2Photo credit: Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com

Needless to say, the position of Supreme Justice is a paramount one and choosing a suitable successor will result in a titanic fight, placing Obama on a collision course with the Republicans. Moreover, you can almost feel the tension in the air as the presidential elections are slowly prowling nearer and nearer – Scalia’s heart attack couldn’t have picked a more suitable time to strike if causing additional havoc was its intention.

Although GOP presidential candidates are the current favorites in the battle over a replacement for Scalia, a beloved icon for the Conservatives, they are warning that this appointment could have a strong influence on courts dealing with key legal battles such as abortion rights, affirmative action and campaign finance loom. They insist that the succession should be put off until next year. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is also a Republican presidential nominee, said Sunday:

“The next president should have a chance to fill that void and not someone who’s never going to answer to the electorate again.”

Jeb Bush also gave his opinion on the matter, explaining how he expects Obama to nominate someone from the ‘mainstream’ and the Senate to reject that nominee. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority leader, has also warned Obama not to try to fill the vacancy on the Court on his own, elaborating on the importance of leaving the decision to the new president once all the dust from the election period has settled down.

Some people have gone even further in expressing their disagreement over Obama’s wish to appoint Scalia’s successor. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also a top-tier presidential candidate, has actually threatened to filibuster any nominee Obama would choose.  He added that the fate of the court should be up for election, explaining:

“The Senate’s duty is to advise and consent. You know what? The Senate is advising right now. We’re advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court, that we’re going to have an election.”

Democrats, on the other hand, have furiously defended Obama’s rights as current president, arguing that the Constitution vests the president with a duty to name a new Supreme Court nominee as long as he or she is in the office and Obama will not leave office until next January.

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