After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February, the question of who will fill the empty seat in the Supreme Court has been on everyone’s minds. Last Wednesday, this question was answered as President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.
Garland is well qualified for the job: he has served on the Washington DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997 and is known to be tough on crime and very centrist in his rulings. Before this, he spent his career as a prosecutor, known for leading the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. 63 year old Garland is not new to the Supreme Court nomination process; he was considered as a finalist two separate times to fill the seats of John Paul Stevens and David Souter, respectively.
In the past, Garland has been well-regarded by Democrats and Republicans alike, with Conservatives in past years even having praised him as a “consensus nominee”. This nomination of a more moderate candidate is a political move by Obama as the two parties continue to butt heads on whether to fill the seat before or after a new president is elected.
The Republicans have said that they will not support the nomination of any candidate regardless of his or her background. This is due to the fact that Obama is a “lame duck” president, referring to the few months he has left in office. While it is written nowhere in the Constitution that this should prevent the president from appointing a new Supreme Court Justice, most Republican Senators have refused to even consider the candidate’s quality. However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that if a Democrat such as Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders gets elected, he will consider Judge Garland as an alternative to a newer, most likely more liberal candidate.
In the meantime, the even number of remaining Supreme Court Justices has caused many decisions to come to a standstill. Some of these cases include a case limiting access to abortions in Texas, a case allowing people to opt out of paying private sector workers’ union fees, and a case challenging President Obama’s recent executive order to suspend the deportation of many undocumented immigrants and their families. In case of a tied ruling, the decision will revert back to that of the circuit court.