Scalia fallout

15 February 2016 5:20 pm

The shock waves from the death of Antonin Scalia, the Reagan appointee to the US Supreme Court who was the court’s fiercest conservative intellectual since 1986, are continuing.

Some of it is just political filibustering, as you would expect, but the conspiracy theorists are also having a field day.

In the US, online radio host Alex Jones suggested that Scalia was murdered.

A noted conspiracy theorist, Illuminati-believer, racist and “lovable” anti-Semite Jones said: “This is the season of treason, this is the time of betrayal and we would be fools not to ask the question if Scalia was assassinated, suggesting that bad actors may have slipped something into the justice’s drink to trigger a heart attack.”

America is that kind of place, full of loonies.

Why is Scalia so important? Because the US Supreme Court presides over matters like gun control, access to abortion, gay marriage, union funding, voting rights, affirmative action, climate change and money in politics, fundamental issues at the heart of the gaping political divide in America.

Now Obama has declared he will nominate a successor which has sent some of the hard line Republicans into paroxysms of rage. After all, we have a Democrat president serving his final year and a new Supreme Court judge would be making rulings that would have an impact on the country many years after Obama’s departure.

That’s why Republican candidate Marco Rubio called on Obama to hold back on his replacement and leave the decision to the next president. "I do not believe the president should appoint someone," said Rubio. "And it's not unprecedented. In fact, it has been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice."

Which is crap of course. Technically, Obama has 11 months left in office. A “lame duck” would have just two months.

But here’s the issue. Obama’s nomination has to be passed by 60 members of the 100 member Senate which is unlikely given that it’s a Republican controlled chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Obama not to expect any success, saying the Scalia vacancy should not be replaced “until we have a new president.”

Then again, it’s strategy that might backfire.

As Kevin Robillard writes in Politico, the Republicans’ 54-seat majority in the Senate is in serious danger in 2016. And the Republicans have more to lose. Democrats have to defend only 10 seats in 2016, the result of the shellacking they took in 2010 when tea party Republicans swept into office. The GOP, meanwhile, needs to defend 24. After Republicans spent 2015 arguing that they have sped up congressional business and made Washington work since taking full control of Congress, blocking a Supreme Court nominee could put Republicans in in a “tough spot”.

Watch this space, it will be fascinating.