McCain: Next president should fill court vacancy

Posted at 1:22 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 06:58:01-05

Arizona's Sen. John McCain joins the chorus of Republican political leaders urging a delay in selecting the next U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, died over the weekend. His replacement must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Republican senators say, since President Obama is nearing the end of his term, the next president should be responsible for nominating someone for the lifetime position. If a Democratic president picks the next justice, the high court will likely have a liberal slant for the first time in decades. The shift could benefit supporters of gun control, abortion rights and unions.

Until a new appointment is made, an eight-member panel of judges is fairly evenly divided ideologically, and there's a long docket ahead that includes a test of Obama's immigration policy. The case from Texas is a challenge to the president's plan for millions of undocumented immigrant parents to temporarily remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation. There is a possibility of a deadlocked 4-4 vote on the immigration case and others facing the Supreme Court this year.  

Many in the legal community say a new justice should be chosen as soon as possible, despite election year politics.

"The president, I think, has the obligation to make a nomination because the constitution says he 'shall' fill the vacancy," said Dean Emeritus Paul Bender at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law.

"We Americans deserve nine people on the Supreme Court because nine is intended to break up a tie," said former Arizona State Bar president Ernest Calderon.

Several judges' names have been floated as possibilities for Scalia's successor. None are from Arizona, but a couple serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit is considered the most liberal in the nation, but the judges would also have a deep understanding of legal issues in the Southwest.