Scalia’s Death Escalates Tension on Capitol Hill

Courtesy: Wiki Commons
Courtesy: Wiki Commons

By Katie Nicora 2/15/2016

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has sparked a contentious, partisan debate over whether or not President Obama should nominate his successor. Scalia was a staunch conservative and Republicans on Capitol Hill are worried that an appointment from the current administration will shift the court’s ideological balance in favor of Democrats.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that, given the already heated atmosphere of the presidential primaries, Scalia’s replacement should be appointed under the next administration. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Scalia’s death was confirmed just hours before a GOP presidential debate, which included a moment of silence in his honor. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz used the debate to echo McConnell’s position. Rubio said the president would “ram down our throat a liberal justice” while Cruz warned that the country is “one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”

Republicans, concerned about maintaining their majority in the Senate, have promised not to act if President Obama does nominate a successor. “I don’t see anyone getting confirmed,” said Senator Mike Lee of Utah, “I suspect that probably means no hearings.” Lee is part of the Judiciary Committee which would consider any nomination.

Democrats seized on the GOP’s lack of cooperation, deeming it an outrageous obstruction of what is clearly laid out in the US Constitution. During a visit to Denver, Hillary Clinton said, “The President has a responsibility to nominate a new justice and the Senate has a responsibility to vote.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also tweeted, “Abandoning their Senate duties would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that– empty talk.”