A major battle now looms

chapman.0830 - 08/29/05 - A Supreme Court headed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has questions for Chapman University Law School professor John Eastman as he and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer argue the 1905 ''Lochner v. State of New York'' case during a re-enactment Monday afternoon at Chapman University. (Credit: Mark Avery/Orange County Register/ZUMA Press)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death today has stunned the nation.

As President Obama said this evening, the 30-year member of the nation’s highest court was one of the “most consequential” legal minds of our time.

The president now faces arguably the “most consequential” appointment of his time in office.

To say that Justice Scalia’s passing upsets the ideological balance of the highest court would commit the supreme understatement.

And, oh yes, the partisan divide opened wide immediately upon news of Scalia’s death. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said the Senate should wait until after Barack Obama leaves office to vote on a replacement; meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, wants the Senate to act quickly.

Who could have seen that coming?

The president said he’ll make the appointment “in due time.” He wants a thorough, fair hearing and a “timely vote.” As the president — lame duck nor not — Barack Obama deserves the chance to nominate someone of his choosing.

Indeed, the appointment coming from a left-of-center president to fill a vacancy created by the death of a right-of-center Supreme Court justice sets up a huge battle that likely will dwarf any of the many fights Barack Obama has waged already with the U.S. Senate.

The court’s narrow balance has just been shaken to its very foundation.


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