The recent death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has left a vacancy in our nation’s highest court, leaving President Barack Obama with the task of filling the position with a solid, qualified, and forward-thinking nominee, facing likely opposition at every turn.
Scalia’s death occurred during the remaining nine days out of a 10 day window left open while 100 U.S. Senators were on a recess break from February 12 to February 22–a window unbroken by pro forma sessions where no legislative business is conducted and no roll call votes are held, an exact minimum recess period established—ironically—by a supreme court ruling.
President Obama could have used this constitutional recess appointment authority to make his choice, but unfortunately the opportunity has now closed, and it will not open again during his remaining time.
According to the Washington Post, if Obama had appointed a replacement, that appointment would have lasted at least “until late 2017.” Now it may not be so easy to make any of his appointments stick.
Republicans are already posturing and positioning, and the threat of filibuster hell looms as yet another potential time and emotional high-jack of the American public once again.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP presidential contenders have been quick to make statements that threaten to block any nominee made by Obama during the remainder of his term.
There are at least five major Supreme Court cases scheduled to be addressed this year.
Evenwel v. Abbott considers “one person, one vote.” Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin challenges Affirmative Action involving the University of Texas and their evaluation process. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association addresses the necessity of public union dues. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt involves yet another attack on both abortion and women’s health care issues. And Zubik vs. Burwell is part of the never-ending series of anti-Obamacare issues. All will have outcomes adversely affected with a conservative appointment to the Supreme Court.
With regard to “the right” choice, a woman Supreme Court justice would better round out the ratio and balance of women to men currently represented, and even more so if that justice is a person of color.
But even with thorough vetting, and an even if a more right-leaning or centrist candidate is found and appointed by President Obama, the Republicans are still likely to block such an appointment, knowing how they have historically voted and sided with their constituencies to thwart most any action President Obama takes during his presidency, especially that in what remains of his last term.
President Obama himself said in his statement that Scalia had “profoundly shaped the legal landscape.”
He wasn’t wrong and he wasn’t kidding.
Scalia and his cronies, like Justice Clarence Thomas, spent a lot of energy during their time to infringe, or attempt to, on the right of women to have power over what they do with their bodies, to deny rape victims the right to bring those who have violated their right to their bodies to proper justice, to tell couples what they can’t do in the privacy of their own bedrooms sexually, and to deny individuals their Miranda rights.
If the Republicans were to have their way, their endorsed nominee would likely also support many or all of these stances, and likely more.
A more liberal appointment by Obama to the Supreme Court might help change or undo some of the damage, or protect what is currently being threatened.
With the major cases scheduled to be addressed this year, there is a lot now at stake with a new appointment. And regardless of who is chosen, how they are chosen, and what their politics are, their responsibility to us all is of the very greatest and we must expect that of them on each and every issue that is brought to our highest court.