Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday immediately set off a legislative standoff between Congress and the Executive Branch, with conservatives led by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanding that President Obama leave Scalia’s SCOTUS seat empty. McConnell issued a statement saying an attempt by Obama to nominate Scalia’s replacement would be met with intransigence that would not only block the nominee but also serve as a blockade in the Senate against any further Obama legislation. McConnell indicated he would essentially hold the government hostage — and keep it at a standstill despite the needs of Americans — in hopes that a conservative will win the presidency and nominate a conservative for Scalia’s seat. That’s eleven months away. Or nearly an eighth of the time that Obama was elected to serve as president, a job which comes with the responsibility to propose justices to keep the Supreme Court staffed with nine judges.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell’s statement read. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” But there is a president. And Article Two of the US Constitution requires that he nominate a justice. Scalia, it’s worth remembering, was an originalist when it came to interpreting the Constitution.