Opinion: Scalia’s death opens door for Democratic advantage in Supreme Court


The courtroom’s doors along with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s chair are draped in black following the justice’s sudden death at the age of 79.

The extremely conservative justice, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, died of natural causes Saturday in his sleep while he was at home after suffering from “health issues,” according to the Washington Post article “The death of Antonin Scalia: Chaos, confusion and conflicting reports.”

Underneath all the sadness and mourning for Scalia in Washington and across the nation lies opportunity for the Democratic Party, namely President Barack Obama, to fill the empty seat left by the respected justice.

There has, however, been an abundance of controversy surrounding the issue of appointing a new justice due to the substantial implications that come with it.

Justices on the Supreme Court serve life tenure, meaning whomever is granted the ninth seat will affect important legislation for generations to come.

Republicans have not been tight-lipped about their ideas surrounding the president’s appointment strategy since the courts have now shifted from leaning conservative to being split evenly 4-4, conservative and liberal.

Right-wing presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz said in a tweet Saturday, “We owe it to (Scalia), and the nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next president names his replacement.”

Cruz echoed the opinion held by most conservatives in hopes that the next president will be a Republican, continuing the trend of a Supreme Court leaning to the right.

In my opinion, there is no such debt owed to the late Scalia or the nation.

The argument being made by Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is that no president should be able to appoint a justice in his last year in office, according to the U.S. News article “Hat-Trick Gridlock”.

The problem I see here is that there is no law dictating such a restriction. It is Obama’s responsibility to appoint a new justice, as laid out clearly in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, according to the U.S. News article.

With almost a year left in office, the president should be granted the ability to present his appointment before the Senate, however uncompromising the Senate majority might be.

Hypothetically, let’s say Obama narrows his decision down to one candidate for Scalia’s replacement and presents him or her before the Senate. The expected course of action is a rejection, a tactic that would be used to buy Republicans more time. But this may not be the smartest idea, according to the Washington Post article “If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, he wins anyway.”

Due to the even split between the two opposing parties in the current Supreme Court, all tied votes will flow back down to the lower U.S. Courts of Appeals. The majority of these lower courts are currently Democrat-dominated.

“Even if the GOP blocks his nominee, the policy outcomes would be very similar to what they’d be if the court had a liberal majority,” according to the article.

In my opinion, the best course of action for Obama is to exercise his presidential power to appoint a moderate democrat as Scalia’s replacement. I believe a moderate is his best bet in getting the nominee through the Senate process.

Hopefully, the possible threat of
the Courts of Appeals ruling in the Democrats’ favor on hot-button issues like
abortion and immigration, which are both on the Supreme Court’s docket, will be enough
of a scare for the Senate, and it will accept Obama’s future nominee,
effectively adding a progressive advantage to the Supreme Court for many years
to come.