Ever since the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, there’s been a fierce debate over whether or not Barack Obama should nominate someone to fill his vacancy. In Obama’s eyes, the court can’t function without filling the seat, but a justice sitting on the bench hit him with a rather inconvenient fact that he’s going to hate.
Earlier this week, Justice Samuel Alito, appointed to the Court by George W. Bush in 2006, was speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and he explained just what the vacancy meant for the Court. Speaking in rather blunt terms, Alito basically said it’s not the end of the world, as some are making it out to be, reported the Associated Press.
“We will deal with it,” he said to an audience of law students.
Alito explained that the Court has functioned just fine in the past with an even number of justices. In fact, the Constitution doesn’t actually state how many justices there’s supposed to be, he said.
— Paul M. Sparrow (@PaulMSparrow1) February 19, 2016
Initially, the Court was comprised of six justices, then over time it grew to nine. Apparently, during the Civil War, there was an additional justice appointed to the bench making the total number of jurists 10.
“They must have been more agreeable,” joked Alito.
The AP reported that the Court will likely remain as-is until late June, when the Court usually issues its final decisions for the term. There’s several important cases that will likely result in a 4-4 split, such as immigration and abortion, in which case, whatever decision was reached in the lower courts will remain in place until the Supreme Court fills Scalia’s seat and rehears the cases.
Alito was asked what kind of person he thought would be best to fill Scalia’s vacancy, although his response wasn’t exactly telling.
“I have enough trouble with the questions I have to decide,” he said.
So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that even if Obama makes a nomination, he won’t allow a confirmation vote to take place so that the next president can fill the seat. How it plays out remains to be seen; however, we can rest assured that there’s going to be a grueling political battle over the issue in the coming months.