Who will President Obama nominate to replace Justice Antonin Scalia

February 16, 2016

Despite a constitutional mandate to do so, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has decreed that the Republicans will not conduct any hearings to consider whether to approve anyone whom President Obama might nominate to replace recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.

So much for the importance of his oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

President Obama has announced that he will nominate someone in “due time.” Speculation abounds.

The identity of the person he nominates is less clear than the strategy he uses to select his nominee. Not only must he select someone above reproach, he must select someone who has recently been approved by the senate to serve in a judicial or law enforcement position. The nominee must be so above reproach and non-controversial as to cast shame onto anyone who opposes him or her. That would be shame of the sort that would result in the senator’s loss in a November reelection bid. Given the right candidate, the democrats could regain control of the Senate.

One such candidate is Judge Sri Srinivasan, whom the senate unanimously confirmed by a vote of 97-0 in May 2013 to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In addition to serving as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, he served as a deputy solicitor general in DOJ’s Office of the Solicitor General. As a south asian minority (born in India) with a JD and an MBA from Stanford, his credentials are difficult to beat.

Another difficult to beat contender is Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whom the Senate recently confirmed. Tom Goldstein, who runs the influential SCOTUSblog, believes she will be the nominee. NBC News reports,

But tapping Lynch to fill the seat of Scalia, who died suddenly Saturday, poses a perception problem for Republicans because her “history as a career prosecutor makes it very difficult to paint her as excessively liberal,” Goldstein wrote.

Lynch would be the first black woman ever nominated to the nation’s highest court — and the GOP would have a political problem during an election year if the Republicans refused to even consider her nomination, Goldstein wrote.

“I think the administration would relish the prospect of Republicans either refusing to give Lynch a vote or seeming to treat her unfairly in the confirmation process,” Goldstein wrote. “Either eventuality would motivate both black and women voters.”

Stay tuned as President Obama’s choice may turn out to be the most important and consequential decision he makes during his presidency. It really is that important. In addition to losing control of the senate, a republican refusal to consider her could cost the republicans the fall election.

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