Scalia passes away

I can hardly believe it. I turned on the national news about 5 minutes after it started today and came into the middle of a story about someone important dying. Pretty quickly I realized it was Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

This really changes things politically nationally. TV is already reporting that Sen. McConnell has already said that the appointment should wait until after the election - over 11 months in reality until a new president gets into office. In the meantime, there could be many 4 - 4 decisions in the court, which are considered as not a winning majority, to the best of my knowledge.

There is going to be a lot of publicity and pressure on McConnell for saying this so quickly. It feeds into suspicions that the GOP's rabid opposition to anything Obama may have some racial overtones. After all, isn't it in the national interest to have a full supreme court?

But here is McConnell's quandry: He knows that Obama will nominate someone not as conservative as a republican president would. Since the court is now divided 4 - 4 between the "conservative" and "liberal" blocks, this next nominee could swing the courts momentum toward the right. But, waiting for a new president has it's own risks. McConnell is an experienced enough politician to know that the odds are against the republicans winning the presidency. If he holds out for a new president and that president ends up being a democrat, he is going to be forced to accept a much more liberal nominee than what Obama might put up now, trying to be statesman like and preserve more of his legacy. (Let's face it, Obama has played McConnell like a fiddle the last 8 years). You know the old saying about the devil you know vs. the one you don't.

So we will see if McConnell was accurately quoted and whether he and the republicans ( particularly those running for president) can take the daily drip for months of the press delving into why the republicans won't give Obama's nominee (cause he is going to nominate someone - you can bet) even a hearing. Particularly if there is some 4 - 4 ties in the court on important issues.

At that point, and I assume that won't be too long, this becomes an important issue in the presidential elections. Scalia favored big business interests, but he was hard on citizen activists who tried to enforce citizen suit provisions of some laws. Time will tell how many people that accounts for on each side. But candidates will be cautious about getting too close to Scalia, because he said some controversial things that there are recordings of that can be used on political ads.

This is bad news for the conservatives. They have no easy answers for dealing with this situation. We'll see how McConnell handles it in the Senate, because that is where all the action will be.