With the election of President Trump, Republicans now hold the ability to solidify a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for generations. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia and subsequent pick by President Trump will return the court back to a conservative majority of judges, from what is now a 4-4 tie between liberals and conservatives. However, with several judges in their late seventies and early eighties, Mr. Trump will likely oversee the nomination of at least another Supreme Court justice. If that does indeed happen, then not only will the court be deeply conservative, but they will likely tackle hot-button issues, like immigration, abortion, religious rights, and presidential powers.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump released a list of nominees that he would consider for the job, which went a long way in soothing conservatives – especially evangelicals, who were very passionate about saving the long-standing conservative majority of the court. With names such as Bill Pryor and Diane Sykes, the list is full of originalists (someone who interprets the Constitution’s meaning as stable from the time of enactment), and that has many liberal senators wary.
Regardless of who Mr. Trump nominates, there will surely be a fight, with the Democrats looking to do whatever they can to block the nomination. The Democrats are already upset with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans for refusing to consider Barrack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, instead opting to leave the seat vacant for the winner of the presidential election. With conservatives looking to fill the seat quickly, the Democrats are gearing up to do whatever they can to slow the process down. The Republican-controlled Senate will need 8 votes for the Democrats for the nominee to be approved, unless they decide to go with the nuclear option, which means they would change the rules to allow the nominee to pass with a simple majority vote.
The Democrats are under a lot of pressure to obstruct anything that Mr. Trump does, and they have already taken to it with a gusto. Just look at how long it is taking to get any nominees to Trump’s cabinet confirmed. However, they need to be smart in deciding who and what they choose to block, or they risk losing their credibility and won’t have the necessary impact when Trump does something they really don’t like. If they do decide to spend a lot of their capital on trying to block this nomination, will the Senate Majority Leader use the nuclear option to get Trump’s nominee confirmed? Mr. McConnell isn’t exactly one to stand up to a fight – he prefers to compromise. However, with the election of Trump, the political landscape has changed, and he may be wary about how Trump will respond if he feels like McConnell hasn’t done everything in his power to get his nominee appointed.