By Emma Haskell ’19 – Inside Politics participant
In the midst of one, if not most exciting and unpredictable, Presidential races in history, the race just got a bit more exciting. On March 16, 2016, Obama announced his nomination for the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States (SCOTUS): Merrick B. Garland. Garland could potentially fulfill the current vacancy on the court after the untimely passing of Justice Scalia on February 13, 2016, at the age of 79 at a resort in Texas. Born and raised in Illinois, Garland went to Harvard Law School where he would graduate summa cum laude. He has served for nineteen years on the D.C Circuit Court, which is, according to CNN, “often considered as the nation’s second most important court.” His veteran federal status and immense credentials for this position however, can not trump his evident centrist record in the eyes of the Republican-controlled Senate, which hold a check on the executive branch by having the ability to accept or reject the President’s nominee for the respected appointment. A liberal majority has not been present in the Supreme Court since the Warren Court ended in 1969 and Republicans are not happy about the potential change of this lifetime appointment. The pressing question that lingers the polarized political atmosphere is whether or not the current residing President should have the power to select the next Justice or if it should be left to the results of the unforeseeable Presidential election of 2016, arguing that the people need to decide.
Now Republicans and Democrats are left butting head to head, which is unfortunately an often occurring issue in today’s partisan politics, as many Republican Senators remain steadfast in their attempts to strike down the president’s nominee. A shift in the Supreme Court majority means new outcomes to the widely debated topics of today such as immigration, campaign finances, abortion and so on. Therefore, consequently the Republican Senate is left checking Obama’s actions. Republicans will continue to argue that this is not a personal issue but rather it simply comes to ideology. That being said some Senators of the GOP do agree to meet with Garland despite that many steadily remain behind McConnell’s attempts to barricade this vacancy and “appropriately revisit the matter” when there is a nomination for the next president. The handful of Republicans Senators willing to meet with Garland shows an immense progress in our country’s legal system as it offers a glimpse of compromise between the red and blue. However, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York forewarns the issue that “If Merrick Garland can’t get bipartisan support, no one can.”
That all being said action will have to be taken soon in the upcoming lame duck months. Republican senators continue to stand still in their opposition to Obama’s pick and will continue to do so despite some concerns that if they don’t accept this nomination now, and a Democratic candidate is to win the election, then the nominee will only lean further to the left. Regardless change is inevitably on the horizon and whomever the new appointment will be will cause foreseeable shifts in the ideology of the SCOTUS. Now only time will tell and if it is anything like the current Presidential debate, who knows what will happen next?