US Supreme Court Judge Appointment Causing a Dilemma

FILE - In this June 17, 1986 file photo, President Ronald Reagan speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, where he announced the nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, to the Supreme Court as a result of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger's resignation. William Rehnquist is at right. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Justice Scalia has died at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The untimely death of Supreme Court Judge, Antonin Scalia, is causing a political hot potato regarding the appointment of his successor. A Supreme Court Judge is appointed by the President, but as Barak Obama has only 11 months left on his presidency, there are calls from the Republicans to delay the new appointment until after this year’s presidential election.

The Supreme Court has nine judges and now after Scalia’s death, sits at 4-4 conservative and liberal judges, so the new appointment could ease the remaining months of Obama’s tenure if he were to appoint a liberal. The previous 5-4 weighting against the President had seen him lose rulings on immigration and climate change.

As they are majority party in the Senate, Republicans are likely to use a number of delaying tactics to delay the new appointment by slowing down the appoint selection through the Senate committee. The longest delay in appointing a Supreme Court Judge is 125 days, so with over 300 days remaining until a new President is sworn in, it is unlikely the Republicans will get their way.

The President is confident that the chosen appointment by him will be accepted by the Senate and he is being urged by the Democrat Presidential candidates to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Hillary Clinton has stated that Obama is President until January 20th 2017, so the decision remains with him. Her main opponent, Bernie Saunders has urged the President to “get on with it.”


Conversely, the Republican Presidential candidates have been urging their party in the opposite direction. Donald Trump has urged his party to “delay, delay, delay”, whilst Senator Tod Cruz has advocated a delay to stop losing influence for another generation. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell said the new appointment should not be made until a new President is appointed.

Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1936 and was the first Italian American to serve on the High Court. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986. He was an opponent of gay rights and abortion and also firmly believed that the US Constitution did not change with the times. Throughout his career he supported business interests and was a strong advocate for the death penalty. He died of a heart attack at a ranch in Texas last Saturday morning.

The appointment of the new Supreme Court Judge may be as politically exciting as the Presidential race itself. There are bound to be calls for a change in the process of future appointments, so that a President has to have a certain amount of time remaining in office to make these generational appointments.  Although a new appointment has not been made, the Supreme Court will continue to hear cases during its current term.