Antonin Scalia was one of the Supreme Court’s most influential justices. The bitter process to replace him threatens to turn the focus from his judicial legacy to his politics.

     Scalia was the feisty unapologetic face of conservatism on the court, inventing the term “originalism” for the philosophy that the Constitution meant what the words were, not how current culture might define them.

    We often opposed his opinions but never questioned Scalia’s or any other justice’s right to apply their legal beliefs in their rulings. The Constitution makes the Supreme Court the final arbiter of how legislation applies to day-to-day life. Americans defer to court rulings because the justices and the court have been seen as free from and above partisanship. Protection from political influence is why an appointment to the court is for life. Scalia, however, carried his opinions and influence outside the confines of the court, helping to drag the Supreme Court into the midst of partisan politics.

    His death has now made clear how completely many are willing to jettison Scalia’s strict conservative originalism if doing so serves their political ends.

    The language of Article II is clear and specific: “[The president] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court. … ”

    President Obama says he will nominate someone to fill the now-vacant seat, as is his constitutional right and duty. Republicans in the Senate, however, are asserting that they will accept no nominee that this duly elected president puts forward. The unprecedented advance rejection by Senate leaders of all possible nominations in advance amounts to nullification of the Constitution’s second article.

    Obama should nominate whomever he wants. The Senate should give that nominee a fair hearing and then bring the nomination forward for a vote. Anything else violates Scalia’s constitutional view.

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