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Presidential election thrown into whirl by Scalia death

Antonin Scalia

The death of 79-year-old Antonin Scalia, an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, is set to throw the already turbulent presidential landscape into further hysterics. Scalia’s death (which is covered within this week’s “Beyond the Bubble”) comes with less than a year remaining in Barack Obama’s presidency, raising serious questions about who will have the opportunity to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

Within hours of Scalia’s death, politicians from all walks of life were weighing in on whether or not Obama should jump on the opportunity to appoint another justice, something he has done twice during his presidency. The Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was firm in his opposition to such an event, saying instead that the task should be left to the next president.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also had a sharply worded response, but in favor of the President.

“The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away,” he said. “With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”

A Republican presidential debate that same night drew heated responses from every candidate, all against Obama nominating a new justice.

“I do not believe the President should appoint someone,” explained Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He also warned that Obama would “ram down our throat a liberal justice.”

Ted Cruz, a Texas Senator and former Supreme Court clerk, was even more severe in his rhetoric, claiming that “we are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”

“The Senate needs to stand strong and say, ‘We’re not going to give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee,’” Cruz continued.

The Democratic nominees took differing stances on the topic. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized her believe that Obama should nominate a new justice, saying that “Obama is President of the United States until January 20, 2017.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his condolences to Scalia’s family and complimented Scalia’s well-noted color and vigor, but did not comment on the matter of who should make the nomination.

In spite of all the discussion, President Obama merely stated that he plans “to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time.”

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