Should the Republicans refuse to accept any Obama nominee?
With the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court is down one member and the Administration and Congress are poised in attack and defend mode concerning the appointment of a successor.
Republicans in both houses are demanding that President Obama wait until after the upcoming General Election and allow the next president to make the appointment, while Democrats are insisting on an immediate appointment. After cutting through all the rhetoric, both parties are looking to tip the balance of the Court in their favor, and the future of the country may hang in the balance. There are a number of cases scheduled to be heard by the Court in the near future, including cases on undocumented immigrants, and provisions of the controversial Obamacare law.
Republicans could be playing with fire by postponing the nomination and confirmation process until next year. First off, there is no guarantee the GOP will win the presidency back in November. President Obama has said he plans to nominate someone who many would consider a moderate, but does anyone actually believe any justice other than a staunch liberal would be the nominee from a President Hillary Clinton or a President Bernie Sanders? In that scenario, with a sure-to-be all out war in the confirmation process, it may be well into 2017 before the vacancy on the bench is filled.
Increasing partisanship from both sides of the political spectrum will make an easy confirmation process a rare occurrence, no matter how qualified the nominee may be. And the trend over the last few decades suggest it may even get harder, as the country is more divided than ever along conservative and liberal ideology.
Currently, the Court is seen as split down the middle, with four judges considered to be liberal-leaning, and four on the conservative side. That could mean, if the judges cannot come to a compromise, any number of deadlocked cases could cloud the docket. And the current court could decide to not accept any more cases until after the confirmation of the next justice. Neither of these is a desirable position for the country.
The Republican strategists may want to consider an appointment from the President, if he indeed does seek a moderate as a replacement for Justice Scalia. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, and Stephen Bryer will be 80+ years old by the end of the next president’s term, with over twenty years of service to the Court each, and that may lead to more opportunities for appointments for the next commander-in-chief. The make-up of the Supreme Court could be quite different by the next election cycle.