What’s Happening with the Supreme Court?
March 21, 2016
Last Wednesday, President Obama nominated judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. In any other year, this news would have been mundane, but filling the vacancy on the highest court in America is quickly becoming a Herculean task. This issue is complicated, but one that might set a very important precedent for the country. Here’s our guide to the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court.
Who was Scalia?
Justice Antonin Scalia was an integral part of the Republican majority in the Court. Confirmed in 1986, Scalia quickly became one of the most important voices of conservative values in the country. He was well-liked by his colleagues on the Court and will likely be remembered by liberals and conservatives alike as a truly great, if polarizing, Justice. He passed away in February of this year, sparking a firestorm of opinions on who should replace him and how.
What is supposed to happen?
As written in the Constitution, the president appoints a replacement, and the Senate then votes whether to confirm or deny the nominee.
Why is there controversy?
Scalia’s loss is one felt particularly hard by Washington conservatives. Republicans in the Senate, who hold the majority, have flatly refused to even hold hearings for any potential nominees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been the most vocal in his opposition to the process, structuring his argument on allowing voters to choose the next Justice.
What is the basis of their argument?
Most have invoked the obscure, unwritten Thurmond Rule that says that any nominee appointed by the president within the last six months of his or her term should be rejected by the majority party. This connection is strenuous at best and, most notably, unprecedented.
What was Obama’s response?
Obama nominated Garland last week. During his speech introducing his pick, he stressed that it is his duty to continue working during his last year in office, an obvious jab at McConnell and other influential conservatives in Washington.
Who is Merrick Garland?
The man at the center of this controversy just might be the most likeable man in the country. Garland is a straight, white, 63-year-old man. He graduated from Harvard at the top of his class and worked his way up through the court system, eventually being nearly-unanimously confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1997. He now serves as Chief Judge. He’s about to be put through the worst experience of his life.
Why Merrick Garland?
Everyone has a different opinion, but a consensus has formed in the media that Garland might be the most strategic nominee possible. He’s liberal, but very centrist, even tilting to the right on issues of criminal punishment. The genius of the nomination is that Garland isn’t liberal enough to force potential president Hillary Clinton to re-nominate him, leaving her free to nominate a younger, more liberal person.
What happens now?
The Senate has all the power now. They can, as they have promised, block any hearings or votes for Garland. If they do, though, they risk setting a dangerous precedent for the country, one that removes all power from the president to complete Constitutional duties in the last year of his or her term, plus wiping away the non-political veneer of the Supreme Court.