No one saw it coming, but it happened, and it may change the trajectory of modern-day American politics. The sudden death of United States Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, could have possibly come at the worst time for the government. As most people know, the citizens of the United States will elect a new president this November, whom will formally take office the following January. The unfortunate passing of Justice Scalia leaves an enormous vacancy on the bench; not to mention the Court is now ideologically divided 4-4. This could change the course of American politics because the next Justice is clearly the deciding vote between the Liberal and Conservative judges. The issue that has risen from the death of Scalia is whether the current president or the next president should appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. Not surprisingly, both sides of the political spectrum are reacting differently. Republicans have repeatedly and stubbornly asserted that they have no intentions of voting or holding a hearing on a potential Obama appointee. Instead, they want the next president of the United States to appoint Scalia’s replacement. The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, along with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio has expressed their desire for the next president to appoint Scalia’s replacement (Source).
On the other hand, the Democrats have a completely different stance on the issue. Obama and Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, have come out publicly and opposed the Republicans viewpoint. The president stated he expects the Senate to fulfill its duties by giving the nominee a “fair and timely vote”(Source). The partisanship fueling this ongoing struggle, especially on the Republican side, does not make much sense. Historically, Conservatives have interpreted the Constitution based on the originalism philosophy. Originalism means the Constitution is interpreted based on the time it was enacted (Source).This strict interpretation of the Constitution remains a core value for a lot of the current Conservatives and Republicans in Washington. Thus, how can they object something expressly stated in the United States Constitution?
Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution, which addresses presidential appointments asserts verbatum: “The President… shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public minister and consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other offices of the United States of America, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law” (Source).
It is clear the Framers of the Constitution wanted the sitting president to appoint Supreme Court Justices and no scenario was addressed that could hinder the president’s responsibility. It is obvious why the Republicans are doing this; they do not want the balance of power on the Supreme Court to shift in favor of the Democrats. However, it seems a bit hypocritical to normally abide by the originalism principle, but not recognize the Constitutional duties granted to the president and themselves. There are many Conservatives who are not in favor of gay marriage because nothing in the Constitution addresses the matter, thus following the originalism philosophy. Not in this matter, though? When it is thoroughly addressed in the Constitution?
In my opinion, Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid said it best: “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities (Source).
Contributed by R.A.