Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in a luxury hunting resort on Feb. 13.
Scalia’s death provides the Obama administration with an opportunity to appoint a liberal justice to fill the conservative legal titan’s now-vacated seat on the Supreme Court. However, in the midst of a presidential election year, Senate Republicans have indicated their intention to prevent this from happening.
Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, stated that if President Obama announces a nominee to replace Scalia, the Senate will not move forward with the process of confirmation.
Described in the Washington Post as “the intellectual cornerstone of the court’s modern conservative wing,” Scalia was notable among observers of the Supreme Court for his views in opposition to abortion, affirmative action, and what he called the “homosexual agenda.”
Of the nine sitting justices, Scalia held the longest term. As reported by the Washington Post, Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan said following Scalia’s death that “his views on textualism and originalism, his views on the role of judges in our society, on the practice of judging, have really transformed the terms of legal debate in this country.”
Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 after attending educational institutions like Harvard Law School and Georgetown University, Scalia carved out distinctly conservative opinions in court decisions such as in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), and Bush v. Gore (2000), a case which ultimately decided the 2000 presidential election.
Justice Scalia’s death heralds the end of an era of Supreme Court history. President Obama has now been presented with the opportunity to nominate a new justice for a legal body that can help cement the immense gains made by liberal justices on the court in recent years. The president has vowed to appoint a nominee to fill the vacant seat during his last year in office. If he does, the future of the Supreme Court may depend on how Senate Republicans respond.