The political battle to replace US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep Saturday at a Texas ranch at the age of 79, is set to be perhaps the “most consequential … of the last 20 years.”
That is according to veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, who was one of many analysts weighing in on the political ramifications of Scalia’s unexpected death Saturday.
Many seemed to agree that it will be difficult for President Barack Obama, who will now be tasked with choosing a nominee to replace Scalia, to get his appointment through a polarized Senate in an election year.
NBC chief legal analyst Pete Williams said he would be “very surprised” if the vacancy was filled before October, when the Supreme Court begins its 2016-2017 term.
“I would be very surprised, frankly, if a vacancy can be filled in time for the next term to start when it starts in October,” Williams said, according to RealClearPolitics.
Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that Scalia’s “departure leaves a huge political fight in the offing.”
“There will be one of the great battles in United States Senate history,” to replace him, he added. “The
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Obama, for his part, said in a statement on Saturday that he plans to fulfill his “constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time.”
“These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone,” he added.
Under Article II of the Constitution, the president has the power to appoint Supreme Court justices — but only with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Typically, the candidate appointed by the president has to answer questions in a hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee before he or she is given a vote from the full chamber.
Since President Gerald Ford’s term in office from 1974 to 1977, it has taken an average of 67 days for a president to nominate a candidate to that candidate receiving a final Senate vote, according to the Congressional Research Service. Because it is an election year, however, the process is bound to be even more politicized and lengthy than usual.
For perspective, the last time a sitting Supreme Court Justice died during a presidential election year was Justice Joseph Lamar in 1916 — and it took his successor, Louis Brandeis, 125 days to be confirmed by the Senate (the longest in history.)
President Obama has 341 days left in office.