Leondra Head | Local & World Editor
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left Washington in an epic political battle. His replacement on the Supreme Court could lead to a historic change in the court’s balance of power.
The fight over who will nominate Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s successor intensified after President Obama announced that he intends to nominate the next justice. Many republicans want the next elected U.S. president to nominate Scalia’s successor.
Rob Portman, Republican Senator of Ohio stated that he will block President Obama’s nomination. Portman said in a statement that the senate should follow what he called “common practice” to stop actions of lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term.
In previous years, many justices have timed their retirements to ensure that their successor would be picked by a president who shares their same political and judicial values. But Scalia, the court’s third-most conservative justice, is far across the ideological spectrum from President Obama’s previous two selections.
Ideological shifts of a large magnitude have been rare. But when they have occurred, they led to dragged out Senate fights for Senate confirmation. For example, the battle over Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination. Thomas replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall, marking the largest ideological shift in the country’s history.
More recent appointments have replaced outgoing justices with people with similar ideology. The replacement of Justice Scalia with an Obama pick could alter the court far more than the replacement of Justice Marshall with Thomas. With the current composition of the court, the replacement of Justice Scalia with a more liberal justice would alter the ideology of the court substantially.
Lee Epstein, a professor at Washington University who measures and studies voting patterns on the Supreme Court, shed some light on what could happen. “For the first time in decades, the court might swing to a Democratic court. This is a major moment,” said Lee Epstein to the New York Times.
The name most frequently discussed is Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is the first black woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney General. Lynch is a former United States attorney and a Harvard law graduate. She managed to get the votes of ten republicans when she was confirmed as attorney general.
A pool of potential candidates can be nominated by President Obama. There are hundreds of judges that have been appointed by Obama, including 55 Court of Appeals judges, 264 district court judges and 2 international trade judges.
Atalia Banks, a freshman political science major from Miami said, “I agree with President Obama nominating a Supreme Court Justice before his term is up in November.
The Supreme Court will be more liberal in favor of Democrats. Supreme Court Justices have a lot of power and hold the nation’s most controversial decisions in their hands. The justice that President Obama nominates will ultimately have a great effect on the nation.”