Here are the latest developments and events in the wake of the death of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, whose sudden passing Saturday at a Texas ranch resort shook Washington D.C. and threatens to reshape the 2016 presidential race.
Democrats Rip GOP Plan to Delay Replacement
Leading Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tore into Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over his vow to block any attempts at a replacement for Scalia until President Obama has left office in January of 2017.
There would be no discussion of a successor any time soon, because “the American people should have a voice,” McConnell said in a statement on Saturday. The Kentucky senator sets the schedule for the upper chamber, which confirms Supreme Court nominations, so his remarks signal the GOP’s intent to thwart any nominee offered by President Obama.
Schumer, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday said McConnell “doesn’t even know who the president is going to propose, and he says, ‘No, we’re not having hearings, we’re not going to go forward.’ [Leaving] the Supreme Court vacant for 300 days in a divided time? This kind of obstructionism isn’t going to last.”
Warren also went hard at McConnell, using against him his own Saturday comments that the “American people should have a voice” in Scalia’s replacement.
“In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes,” Warren said in a statement. “Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says ‘… except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic president.'”
President Obama intends to nominate a replacement for Scalia promptly, the New York Times reported.
Potential Replacements Emerge
Several names are drawing attention as potential nominees to replace Scalia on the High Court who, if confirmed, would join Obama’s other two selections, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, whom former Obama Advisor David Axelrod said in a CNN op-ed on Sunday was specifically proposed by Scalia as a successor to Justice David Souter. The early thinking is that because Scalia was such a noted conservative, Obama would pick a more mainstream candidate to bolster support among at least some GOP Senators.
Any list begins with Sri Srinivasan, 48, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees. Obama first nominated him to the post in 2012, and the Senate confirmed him, 97-0, in May 2013, including votes of support from GOP presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Srinivasan was Obama’s principal deputy solicitor general, most notably working on the successful fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. He also has experience on the other side of the aisle, serving as an assistant to the solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration and as a clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Jane Kelly, who, like Obama, is a 1991 graduate of Harvard Law School, is another prospect on the younger side. She’s an Obama appointee who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to an appeals court position, in this case, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, serving out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was an assistant public defender for the federal courts in Iowa, and her nomination to the appellate court was accelerated by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Merrick Garland has often been mentioned when there is an opening. Garland is the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by President Bill Clinton. He is thought of as a moderate.
Amy Klobuchar would be a longshot choice. The senior senator from Minnesota, she was a prosecutor in Minneapolis before entering politics. She’s on the Senate Judiciary panel, which could give her some personal connections that would help.
Supreme Court Colleagues Weigh In
Several of Justice Scalia’s Supreme Court colleagues issued statements, that referred to him as “a legal titan” and said that he “left an indelible mark on history.”
“We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.” said Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’ — and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that Scalia “was devoted to his family, friends, our Court, and our country. He left an indelible mark on our history. I will miss him and the dimming of his special light is a great loss for me.”
Foul Play Ruled Out, No Autopsy
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara said in an interview on Sunday that she inquired with U.S. Marshals a day earlier about the possibility of foul play in the death of Scalia and was told “absolutely not.”
After talking with Scalia’s personal physician, she said, she pronounced him dead and declined to order an inquest. The death certificate would show the cause of the death was a heart attack, reported WFAA-TV in Dallas.
On Saturday night, Alex Jones, a well-known conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, went on Facebook to give an emergency transmission to his believers.
“When they kill somebody they say, “it appears to be natural causes, nothing to see,'” he posted. “And I wish it was natural cause, but man, my gut tells me no. And if this is an assassination, this signifies that they are dropping the hammer.”
On Sunday, Scalia’s body was driven in a procession that included about 20 law enforcement officers to an El Paso, Texas, funeral home from the West Texas resort ranch where he was found dead in his room on Saturday morning.
Scalia’s body to be flown to Virginia
A representative for Sunset Funeral Homes in West Texas told the Associated Press that Scalia’s body was taken from the facility late Sunday afternoon. Chris Lujan, a manager at the funeral home, says Scalia’s remains were to be taken to Virginia, but he didn’t know exactly where.
Lujan says Scalia’s family also didn’t think a private autopsy was necessary.