The sudden death of Antonin Scalia, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, on Saturday morning will shake up American politics like few events in recent memory, reshaping the 2016 presidential campaign and potentially leaving the Supreme Court deadlocked for more than a year.
In the short term, President Obama will have to decide who to nominate to replace the voluble conservative jurist, and the Republican-led Senate will have to decide whether to even consider the president’s pick in the heat of the election campaign. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately signaled that an Obama nominee would not get a vote this year. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” CNN reported Saturday evening that Obama intends to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, setting up a potential confrontation with Republicans that would play out both on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail.
The news of Scalia’s death broke just hours before Republican candidates were to debate in South Carolina, and Senator Ted Cruz swiftly called for blocking any nominee Obama sends to the Senate.
Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 13, 2016
In a statement, Senator Marco Rubio praised Scalia and joined Cruz in calling for “the next president” to choose his replacement. Glowing testimonials also came in from President George W. Bush and his brother, Jeb. House Speaker Paul Ryan hailed Scalia’s Catholicism and said he “did more to advance originalism and judicial restraint than anyone in our lifetime.” Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican, said in a statement that Scalia “led a much-needed revolution in the law” and then told Fox News that his death creates “probably the most important judicial vacancy in history.”