Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away at age 79. Condolences to his family and friends, but for the rest of us, what does it mean for the country? The man, after all, was perhaps the guy most responsible for giving us George W. Bush in 2000. In addition, he voted for retrograde position after retrograde position during his nearly 30-year tenure on the country’s highest court.
Unfortunately, it probably means we won’t have a full Supreme Court until well into 2017. Republican officials, most importantly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley (the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee), are already calling for no movement on the vacancy until the new president is sworn in. They will try to support their arguments with reasons and precedents, but there are no good reasons or precedents.
So, expect President Obama to nominate one or two people but to be rebuffed. In the meantime, we can expect contentious cases over union rights, emissions regulations, etc. to split 4-4 and default to lower court rulings. But, for someone better informed than I, go read Rick Hasen.
If President Obama gets a nominee through before his presidency ends, I will be an extremely happy and surprised man. If he doesn’t, well, I’d like people to remind me again about how important it is to vote for someone who will pinkie swear to always tell them the truth cross their heart hope he/she dies stick a needle in his/her eye.
Let me express this clearly if condescendingly. It doesn’t matter if you trust Hillary Clinton enough to invite her to your sleepover or not. She will not appoint to the Supreme Court anyone who will (1) vote to let states criminalize all abortions, (2) vote to overturn a right to same-sex marriage, (3) vote to uphold unlimited corporate money in elections, (4) vote to strike down emissions regulations, etc. Every single Republican running for president will nominate someone who will vote for those things. The 2016 election is for huge stakes no matter whom the two parties’ nominees are; people need to stop pretending it isn’t. A conservative justice on the Supreme Court just ate a dirt sandwich. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the differences between the two parties couldn’t be bigger.