The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rested heavily on everyone’s minds Wednesday as members of College Republicans asked Congressman Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) whether the Senate will hold a nomination hearing in the near future.
After President Barack Obama announced his plans to nominate a replacement for Scalia, the administration has been in a back-and-forth battle of promises with Republican leadership in the Senate, who have argued the next president should be the one to nominate a new justice and have threatened they will block Obama’s nominee.
“We simply don’t trust the president,” Smith said. “We can see during the nomination hearing, … but I doubt anybody will actually be confirmed.”
Smith came to speak to College Republicans at the group’s second meeting of the year, taking place just days before the six remaining Republican presidential candidates head to South Carolina, the third state in the party’s primary process, on Saturday.
“This is going to raise the stakes for the presidential race because now everybody realizes the race is not just about one branch; it’s about two branches of government,” Smith said. “They’ll be picking not only a president, but they’ll be in effect picking the [political party] of the nominations to the Supreme court for the next generation or two.”
While Republicans are in South Carolina, the two Democratic candidates — who have argued the Senate should confirm Obama’s eventual nominee — will be up for a vote in Nevada’s caucuses, the third step in their primary process.
Smith said it is a “best kept secret of Washington, D.C.” that the next president from whichever party will have the gift of filling at least two vacancies on the highest court in the country, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Anthony Kennedy as the most likely retirees.
The next president could end up nominating almost three or four justices, which could potentially swing the court into the hands of a more liberal majority or keep it conservative, Smith said.
College Republicans executive director Jacob Przada, who has blockwalked for Smith this year before the March 1 primary, said the Supreme Court’s history of being an independent judiciary is at stake in the upcoming elections.
“If you look at the Supreme Court, it is one of the most important parts of our governmental system because it holds everyone else in check,” said Przada, an international relations and global studies sophomore. “Separating the three branches of government is one of the most important parts of the Constitution, and it guarantees individualism and human rights.”
With four justices appointed by a Republican and four by a Democrat, the ninth seat on the Supreme Court will determine whether the court sees the next couple of decades defined by liberal or conservative ideology and constitutional interpretations.
Government junior Madison Albrecht said she believes electing a conservative Republican as president is now more important than ever in light of the judicial vacancy.
“We need to choose a president who we can trust to pick a Supreme Court nomination for the next generation,” Albrecht said. “I think that both liberals and conservatives see the importance of the presidential race at this point.”
The Obama Administration said it is looking at prospective justices but will not announce a nominee until the Senate reconvenes after its recess.