The untimely death of Anton Scalia brought the issue of the Supreme Court into the spotlight of the 2016 election cycle like never before. Due to the lifelong tenure of a Supreme Court justice, a vacancy on the Supreme Court comes very rarely and brings with it a large amount of commotion. While the sudden death of Antonin Scalia left a vacancy on the bench, vacancies can also arise from justices who choose to retire from the bench.
The death of Justice Scalia leaves eight justices sitting on the bench, ranging in age from 55 to 83. Justices Ginsberg, Kennedy, and Breyer are all over the age of 75. If the Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell keep their word, then Justice Scalia’s seat will not be filled by Obama, but instead left to the next president. However, this is President Obama’s third Supreme Court nomination in his two terms in office. IN May of 2009, only months into his first term, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to fill the seat left by the retirement of Justice David Souter, who had been appointed by President George H.W. Bush. The following year, President Obama had another chance to make a nomination, when he nominated then Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the seat about to be vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens. President Obama was able to appoint two liberal justices to fill the seats of formerly conservative
Of the remaining eight sitting Supreme Court Justices, one was appointed by Ronald Reagan, one was appointed by George H.W. Bush, two were appointed by Clinton, and two were appointed by G.W. Bush, along with the two appointed by Obama. This means that we can estimate our next president will, if tradition holds, appoint at least two Supreme Court Justices.
With that in mind, each candidate will be critiqued for their potential to nominate Supreme Court justices that will uphold the values of their party. For Republicans, we are looking for someone who can live up to the conservative legacy left behind by Antonin Scalia. On the left, they are looking for a candidate who will turn the balance of the Supreme Court to the left for years to come. If we want to keep the Supreme Court on our side, we need to make sure we put someone in the White House who we can trust to appoint the proper people, and we need to make sure we maintain a majority in the senate to ensure that they will properly vet and affirm whatever nominee the next president puts forward.
This election cycle has already gone to hell in a hand basket, but with the future of the Supreme Court now hanging in the balance as well, the stakes have been raised. Whomever our next president is, they will have some important choices to make. If the Senate keeps their promise, they will nominate the justice who will fill the seat of Justice Scalia. Likely, they will also have to nominate replacements for at least two more Supreme Court Justices in their first term alone.
This election is about more than just who is sitting in the White House serving as our Chief Executive. This election is about who is going to be sitting on the highest court in the land, deciding what is constitutional and what is not. This election is about the future of campaign finance, abortion, Obamacare, and affirmative action. If either party wants to have control over these issues in the future, they need to make sure they win this election and appoint Supreme Court Justices who will uphold the values they stand for until their last day on the bench.
header image credit: http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/the-real-significance-scotus-rulings