The unexpected death of Antonin Scalia in the midst of an election year already has people calling on the Senate to hold off confirming any nominee that President Obama might put forward. Ted Cruz was one of the first: "We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement," tweeted the man who hopes to be that next president. More crucially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees, saying the vacancy should remain open until then, reports Reuters. And a spokesman for Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who sits on the judiciary panel, sent out a quick tweet saying that any Obama nominee would face "less than zero" chances of making it through the panel, reports the Hill. There was no immediate word from the White House on the nomination plans of the president, but Politico predicts he would face "fierce—if not insurmountable pressure"—to any nominee.
USA Today agrees that winning confirmation "would be difficult, if not impossible." The stakes are huge, of course, given that the replacement of the justice who is perhaps the court's strongest conservative voice with a more liberal-leaning one would tilt the 5-4 balance back to the left. "It’s been more than 80 years since a Supreme Court justice was confirmed in an election year to a vacancy that arose that year, and there has never been an election-year confirmation that would so dramatically alter the ideological composition of the court," says Ed Whelan, who served as a law clerk under Scalia and is now a top conservative when it comes to legal matters. "Let the people decide in November who will select the next justice." The longest delay in a Supreme Court justice's confirmation is 125 days, and Obama has the better part of a year left in office, notes ThinkProgress.