Merrick Garland

If the political scene was not hot enough going into the upcoming United States presidential election, the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and more appropriately, President Obama’s opportunity to nominate a new justice, has served to pour gasoline on an already intense fire.

The death of Justice Scalia took the SCOTUS head count from nine down to eight – four Republicans and four Democrats. Washington Republicans believe President Obama will nominate a Democrat to swing the vote to the left on upcoming issues to be decided this term and are determined to make sure that does not happen. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Associated Press reported that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham promptly reported, after a closed door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the Republicans sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee will not hold a hearing and will not entertain a vote on any Supreme Court nominee President Obama may submit for consideration.

In response, Minority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Democrats would not retaliate by disrupting the appropriations process and confirmed that the Democrats were going to proceed to get necessary work done.

Last July the New York Times ran an article showing how the Justices came down on major opinions issued earlier that year on the political hot button topics of lethal injection, same sex marriage, health care subsidies, environmental regulation, the authority of politicians to draw district lines for election purposes, housing discrimination, religious signs, confederate flags and free speech, separation of powers, social media and free speech, employment discrimination, judicial elections, race issues, pregnancy discrimination, and religious freedom.

For 13 of 15 topics on which SCOTUS issued an opinion, the Dem justices were part of the majority opinion. In five opinions, the Dems were joined by at at least one Repub justice to form the majority; in four opinions they were joined by two Repub justices; in two opinions they were joined by four Repub justices; and in two opinions, the court made unanimous findings. On only two topics heard in the first half of 2015 (environmental pollution and lethal injection) did the five Repub justices outvote the four Dems ending in a 5-4 opinion of the court.

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