The death of a US Supreme Court Judge has caused fierce argument over the process to find his replacement. Justice Antonin Scalia died aged 79 in his sleep early Saturday morning.
US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Scalia, saying he had “an incisive wit,” and was a larger than life presence on the bench. Obama said that he will choose a replacement.
Republican Presidential nominees have criticised the move, calling instead for the appointment to be made after the upcoming election. US Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said, “We ought to make the 2016 election a referendum on the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court is now equally balanced, with 4 conservative leaning Justices, and 4 liberal Justices.
The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is often seen as one of the ways a President can make a lasting impact, as the position is held for life. The successor to Scalia must be approved by the Senate, which is currently Republican controlled.
Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the job “should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Republican Presidential candidate and Senator Marco Rubio said: “The president can decide whatever he wants, but I’m telling you the Senate is not moving forward on it until we have a new president.”
The court has a series of cases coming up that deal with passionately fought issues, such as abortion, immigration and voting rights.
The court is set to decide next month how much power states have to limit abortion. In the most significant abortion case since 1992, the court will discuss the restrictions that Texas placed on abortion clinics and providers. Justice Scalia was expected to favour the conservative argument.
Justice Scalia was the first Italian American appointed to the Supreme Court. He was a firm believer of ‘originalism’, the belief that the American Constitution is a fixed document and should not change with the times.
The next US president will be sworn in on the 20th of January 2017. The record length of time to appoint a Supreme Court nominee is 125 days.