Within minutes of Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected passing, Republicans implored the president to abdicate his constitutional duty to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice.
“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,” said Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell at a time when other political leaders were releasing statements offering condolences to the Justice’s family.
President Obama, in a demonstration of class and respect, offered praise for the conservative who, more than any other justice, had been a thorn in his side.
“He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Obama. “Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy: The rule of law. Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.”
But the President was having none of the advice coming from all corners of GOP land.
“Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy,” said Obama. “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”
The untimely death of Justice Scalia has put Republicans between a rock and far-right place. If they follow through on their promise to not even consider the President’s eventual nominee, they will show themselves to be the obstructionists they are and not as defenders of the Constitution. If they acquiesce, they will be seen as spineless by their “take no prisoners” base already angry with the Republican governing class.
Democrats have shown themselves to be a respectful bunch following the passing of Scalia. While the late Justice was perhaps the most loathed figure among liberals, they followed the president’s example by not exalting what many secretly believed to be a stroke of good luck.
No matter what the Republican Senate decides to do, the Democrats are in the catbird seat. All they need to do is have their nominee … whichever one it may be … elected president and the direction of the Supreme Court will be changed for decades … much like when Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Court by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago.
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