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Political Conflicts Surround Justice Scalia's Successor

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Who will replace Justice Antonin Scalia is a campaign issue, as evidenced by Saturday’s Republican debate. The GOP presidential candidates agreed the Senate should not confirm President Obama's nominee, whoever it is.

The President has the Constitutional duty to name a successor to the late Supreme Court Associate Justice.

Matt Streb, chairman of the political science department at Northern Illinois University, expects President Obama to nominate someone to replace Antonin Scalia and Senate Republicans to refuse to consider that nominee until after the election. Streb calls that a problem because of pending cases.

And what if the Court deadlocks four-to-four on a decision?

“Then what happens is the lower court ruling holds, and there’s no precedential value to the Supreme Court decision,” Streb said.

He says there's even more at stake:

“And then of course you have election-related cases going forward that have already been decided but, depending on who is confirmed, could be flipped; and the most obvious case of that is Citizens United,” Streb said.

That case rolled back restrictions on campaign spending, but critics hope to repeal it. Streb says waiting for a new president to nominate someone would further delay the business of the third branch of government.

But the President has an option that would sidestep the need for Senate approval. That’s according to Robert Evans, a Professor of Political Science at Rockford University.

“The Senate right now is in recess,” Evans said. "If President Obama wanted to make real trouble, and it would not even have to go to the Senate for confirmation, he could nominate a justice who – just because he nominated that justice – would become a justice until the end of the term of the Senate."

Evans says he doubts the president will take advantage of a recess appointment.

  • WNIJ's Victor Yehling also contributed to this article.
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