After the unexpected death of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia this morning, Republicans and Democrats began waging a verbal war over whether or not President Barack Obama will fill Scalia’s vacant seat, especially since the Chief Justice skewed to the far right.
And while Scalia’s death scares the GOP, the Dems see it as a political advantage. See, before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court had a GOP edge with a 5-4 majority, but now it’s even with 4-4. And this fact has folks on The Right—from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, to everyone in between—on the defense with their claws out doing the absolute most and demanding that POTUS not replace Scalia.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed that the nomination should wait until the next president comes into office, while top Democrat Harry Reid called for the seat to be filled “right away,” CNN noted.
Well tonight, President Obama killed all that noise, confirming that he WILL nominate a new justice in “due time” given that he has that constitutional right to do so, because he’s…wait for it….the President of the United States.
“There’s plenty of time…for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities I take seriously as should everyone. They are bigger than one party.”
But POTUS was also clear that today was about remembering Scalia, not naming a replacement.
“He influenced a generation of lawyers, judges and students. Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time,” he said during a press conference in California.
Now depending on which political party you rep for, hearing this news either brings you joy or anxiety, since Obama will most likely nominate someone whose politics are more center (or left of center). Which is quite the opposite from Scalia’s views, who during his nearly 30-year tenure left a legacy of controversial rulings and opinions (and a stale taste in the mouths of many Americans).
Just last December, Scalia said that African-American students just weren’t smart enough to go to certain schools and should look for more remedial education. He also has a rich history of making sexist and homophobic statements such as “banning homosexual sex are like laws banning murder” and “women don’t have constitutional protection against discrimination.”
That’s just the abridged version of his problematic shenanigans. So, yes, a fresh voice on the Supreme Court would be kinda nice.
But before Dems get all giddy, the process of choosing, nominating and confirming a nominee is much easier said than actually done, NPR notes. One of the biggest obstacles being GOP resistance by blocking and/or delaying any new Obama nominee, which they are notorious for and have said they will do most definitely do in the wake of Scalia’s death.
A move that might come back and bite the GOP in the ass.
Nevertheless, President Obama “has successfully appointed two justices during his two terms in office, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Justice Elena Kagan in 2010,” Time.com pointed out. So perhaps if anyone can replace Scalia, Obama can.
Not only would a third Supreme Court Justice confirmation help seal Obama’s presidential legacy, it would have a huge impact on our nation for years to come given all that is at stake. According to Think Progress, immigration rights, abortion rights, affirmative action, global warming and even access to birth control could easily find themselves in cases in front of the Supreme Court in the near future–all issues that Scalia would vehemently vote against and could possibly be the final vote to sway a decision in the favor of conservatives.
So with all that being said, who’s on the initial shortlist?
After the news of Scalia’s death broke, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow thew out Secretary of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson‘s name, while the New York Post’s shortlist includes Paul Watford (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge), Merrick Garland (Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) and Patricia Ann Millett (D.C. Circuit judge) to name a few.
But I’ll admit, it would be nice to see our first African American president strongly consider nominating a progressive African American woman to replace Scalia. In the Court’s 227-history, not one African American woman has been nominated; let alone confirmed to be a member of this judicial elite.
And real talk: The Supreme Court really needs some #BlackGirlMagic in its life.
But which Black woman could it be?
In 2013, The Root ‘s Keli Goff made a really good list of African-American women who could possibly make the grade, including Leah Ward Sears (the first Black woman nominated to state Supreme Court), Kamala Harris (the first African-American attorney general in California) and Deborah Batts (the first openly gay African-American federal judge) to name a few.
As of today, newer names, including U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been mentioned. So has Anita Hill‘s, but given her tumultuous past with current Chief Clarence Thomas and past accusations of sexual harassment, sitting on the bench with him could be too triggering.
Whatever the case, we are confident that a Black woman could slay her way, all day, on the bench of the highest court in the nation. We only hope that President Obama is listening to us.