Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a statement Sunday about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia was found dead Saturday morning at private residence in the Big Bend area of West Texas, after he’d gone to his room the night before and did not appear for breakfast, said Donna Sellers, speaking for the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Scalia’s death most immediately means that that the justices could be split 4-4 in cases going to the heart of the some of the most divisive issues in the nation — over abortion, affirmative action, immigration policy and more.
Scalia was part of a 5-4 conservative majority — with one of the five, Anthony Kennedy, sometimes voting with liberals on the court. In a tie vote, the lower court opinion prevails.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, said the nomination should fall to the next president.
Senator Elizabeth Warren responded to McConnell with this statement:
"The sudden death of Justice Scalia creates an immediate vacancy on the most important court in the United States.
"Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did – when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.
"Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says ‘…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President.’
"Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that – empty talk."
-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D) Massachusetts
Leaders in both parties were likely to use the high court vacancy to implore voters to nominate candidates with the best chance of winning in the November general election.
Scalia used his keen intellect and missionary zeal in an unyielding attempt to move the court farther to the right after his 1986 selection by President Ronald Reagan. He also advocated tirelessly in favor of originalism, the method of constitutional interpretation that looks to the meaning of words and concepts as they were understood by the Founding Fathers.
Scalia’s impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus, although he was held in deep affection by his ideological opposites Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Scalia and Ginsburg shared a love of opera. He persuaded Kagan to join him on hunting trips.
His 2008 opinion for the court in favor of gun rights drew heavily on the history of the Second Amendment and was his crowning moment on the bench.
He could be a strong supporter of privacy in cases involving police searches and defendants’ rights. Indeed, Scalia often said he should be the "poster child" for the criminal defense bar.
But he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.
He was in the court’s majority in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively decided the presidential election for Republican George W. Bush. "Get over it," Scalia would famously say at speaking engagements in the ensuing years whenever the topic arose.
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