UPDATE #4: President Obama makes simple, clear, impossible-to-argue statement on Scalia vacancy:
Obama: I plan to fulfill my constitutional duties to name a successor.
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) February 14, 2016
UPDATE #3: As the Washington Post reports, Scalia’s death may strengthen the conservative ideological case for Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee for President.
UPDATE #2: The passing of Justice Scalia could very well ensure that President Obama’s Climate Plan will move forward. From New York magazine:
The immediate and easily foreseeable impact is staggering. Last week, the Supreme Court issued a stay delaying the implementation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The stay indicated that a majority of the justices foresee a reasonably high likelihood that they would ultimately strike down Obama’s plan, which could jeopardize the Paris climate agreement and leave greenhouse gasses unchecked. Without Scalia on the Court, the odds of this drop to virtually zero. The challenge is set to be decided by a D.C. Circuit panel composed of a majority of Democratic appointees, which will almost certainly uphold the regulations. If the plan is upheld, it would require a majority of the Court to strike it down. With the Court now tied 4-4, such a ruling now seems nearly impossible.
UPDATE: Politico has more on the broader political implications of Scalia’s death:
Scalia, widely regarded as the intellectual leader of the court’s conservative wing, was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1986…
…Obama is expected to face fierce — if not insurmountable — resistance in the Senate to any nominee that he might put forth, especially given the heightened political conversation around the presidential election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has power to prevent confirmation of any nominee, made clear within hours of the first reports of Scalia’s death that Obama should not try to make a nomination before he leaves office next January.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said.
That’s a pretty weak excuse, Senator. The American people don’t have a say in the selection of Supreme Court justices, which is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended.
So, uh, what happens
if when Senate Republicans refuse to act and allow the Supreme Court to move forward?
Scalia’s death leaves the court split, 4-4, between Democratic and Republican-appointed justices. That could result in a deadlock on contentious cases before the court, including disputes over Obama’s executive actions on immigration, state laws restricting access to abortion and whether public-sector workers can be required to pay representation fees to unions.
In situations where the court is evenly split, the lower court ruling being appealed is upheld but no precedent is set for future cases. The court could put or keep stays in place in some cases until a new justice allows it to reach a majority opinion.
In other words: Chaos!
It’s bad enough that the current Republican Congress has been historically worthless in terms of actual governing. Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to spread this impotence to the Supreme Court, too?
The next time McConnell or any of his GOP Senate colleagues start talking about the importance of “following the Constitution,” go ahead and stick a finger in each ear while softly humming to yourself.
Stand by for updates, multiple news outlets confirming that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died suddenly at age 79.