Obama Will Nominate. Will Grassley Consider?

Feb 17, 2016

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend has ignited a firestorm. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately said the next president, not Barack Obama, should make the nomination. That sentiment was echoed by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Grassley seemed to soften that rhetoric a bit in town hall meetings across Iowa Tuesday. While he still says President Obama should defer and he declined to commit to holding hearings, Grassley did say he would take the proceedings "one step at a time."

"He [President Obama] does his Constitutional duty of appointing,” Grassley told the standing room only audience in Marengo, "but whether we consent or don’t consent, we’re still following the Constitution."

President Obama on Tuesday said he will put forward a nomination, as allowed by the constitution.

"When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court the President of the United States is to nominate someone. The Senate is to consider that nomination and either they disapprove of that nominee, or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court." He says there is no unwritten rule that he should leave the nomination to his successor.

Dave Andersen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, says it's difficult to use historical precedent to help determine what will, or should happen, because not many Supreme Court justices have died in the last year of a president's term. Andersen says it's unlikely President Obama could nominate anyone Senate Republicans would confirm.

"If Obama makes another nomination, this would be his third appointment to the Supreme Court, and it would be the first Democratic appointed majority on the court in over 40 years."

Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, says what we're seeing is not just a fight over a Supreme Court nomination. It's something deeper.

"The incredible gap that exists now, that is growing between Democrats and Republicans, both in the Senate, the House and also in the American public."

In this edition of River to River, host Emily Woodbury talks with Schmidt and Andersen about the nomination process and how it may impact the ongoing presidential nominating process.