It was a busy day at Rock's Roost yesterday, a day which included several rounds of farm chores, a couple of trips to town including one long stint at the library, and an hour or two of unwinding in front of the television. I surfed through the headlines in the morning, harvesting a few nuggets for the blog, and then basically disconnected from the world of news and information. It wasn't until I was getting ready for bed and checked the internet one last time that learned of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
That was a shocker! Scalia, easily one of the most intransigent conservative jurists in the history of the Supreme Court, had left the building - permanently - and at a time when the Court docket was packed with significant cases, many of which were likely to have been decided by a one-vote margin. This term the Court was looking at abortion, birth control, immigration, unions, and affirmative action.
The country may have just been spared one of the most destructive terms in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The process for replacing Justice Scalia (I'm sorry, but the term "Justice Scalia" still feels like an oxymoron) is two-fold. First, according to the Constitution, the President of the United States - that would be Barack Obama - selects a person to nominate to the post. Then, also according to the Constitution, that venerable institution, the United States Senate, has to vote on the nominee. There is, of course, a third option, one not mentioned in the Constitution, and that is for the Senate to delay or refuse to act on the President's nomination until a new President takes office.
Republicans seem to be of the mind that since the President is now in his last year in office (barely) that he should not even sully the process with a nomination, but should rather sit it out and let the next President name the successor - someone sensible like a Trump or Cruz appointee. Obama short-circuited that plan and has announced that he would be using his Constitutional prerogative and mandate to propose a successor to Scalia.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, has already indicated that he and his colleagues won't consider a nomination before the next President is sworn into office, and the Republican clowns who are still left in the Presidential chase are all encouraging the Senate to delay action on any Obama nomination.
Whether the Senate is able to keep the seat on the Court open for a year or more is only part of the equation. Barack Obama is still likely to have a very good year with the judiciary as the Supreme Court is forced to function with only eight members - and the Republic may just be saved.
The presidential election of 2016 has suddenly become about the Supreme Court, a body that, as of late, could certainly stand some prolonged public scrutiny. President Obama will name a nominee, someone with a sound judicial mind and impeccable credentials, and that person will go through a thorough vetting process. If the Senate refuses to act or rejects the candidate, that will say far more about the Senate than it does the judicial nominee - or the President, for that matter.
And then there's this possibility: If McConnell and his GOP obstructionists in the Senate thwart the President's Constitutional right to name a successor to fill Scalia's vacancy, come next January President Sanders or President Clinton might just nominate Barack Hussein Obama, a gifted Constitutional scholar, to sit on the Supreme Court.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mitch!