Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's Death Triggers Replacement Battle, Changes High Court Balance On Major Issues

Sat, 13 Feb 2016 22:20:19 UTC by Alan Duke

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose conservative opinions have influenced the direction of U.S. law for nearly 30 years, has died, Lead Stories has confirmed. Scalia was 79.

Justice Scalia, who was the longest serving member of the current 9-member high court, was found dead at a Texas resort where he was on a quail hunting trip. Scalia's death is believed to be from natural causes, federal officials said. He was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a west Texas resort. Scalia arrived there Friday. A resort worker found his body in his room Saturday morning.

Scalia, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was a originalist who argued that the U.S. constitutional should be interpreted as it was originally intended by the nation's founders.

The loss of Scalia and the addition of a justice chosen by President Obama could dramatically change the balance of high court. His death is certain to set off a fierce battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, which must approve his replacement. The highly-charged presidential election year, which has already taken an ugly turn, could become even hotter.

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who is a member of the senate, immediately tweeted that Obama should not be allowed to choose the new justice, but that it should be a decision made next year after another president takes office.

Sen. Marco Rubio, also a GOP presidential contender, echoed Cruz's insistence that Obama should not pick the replacement. "The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia's unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear."

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told the Associated Press that he agree the Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled until there is a new president.

While the senate could stall the confirmation process until next year, it would still leave the court with one less conservative vote in each decision in 2016.

Conservatives will miss Scalia when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstadt on March 2, a crucial case that abortion rights advocates say could close all but about 10 abortion clinics in Texas. The case is a challenge to the Texas law that closed many of the state's abortion clinics in 2013.

Scalia was clearly on record as opposing abortion rights and criticizing the Supreme Court's 1972 Roe vs. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Leaving the choice to the next president could supercharge the turnout in November as each party uses it argue the importance of the election.

Hillary Clinton is already stirring up her supporters about the prospect of having a Republican president choose the next justice. "There are six Republicans left in the race for the White House--and we can't afford to let any of them near it."

Donald Trump calls Scalia's death "a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY!"

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential contender, had kind words. "While I differed wth Justice Scalia's views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court. My thoughts and prays are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing."