As many have already heard, Justice Antonin Scalia died at a Texas ranch today. Our humblest condolences to his family and friends.
The nation goes on. Thanks to the work of our far sighted founders, our government is a government not of men but of laws. When the inevitable happens mechanisms were set up long ago to replace humans as they pass on.
Our system of replacement is not a smooth pathway but a road with roadblocks meant to stop spurious candidates from being selected. It sometimes stop the well qualified candidates also. The President offers a nominee and the senate confirms that nominee.
Iowa’s Chuck Grassley has been in charge of the committee that screens federal judicial nominees before they go to a confirmation hearing. Since he became chair in 2015, Grassley has essentially halted the process waiting for the next election in hopes that the next President will be a Republican. So do not expect fast action on any nominee president Obama offers. Very likely there will be no action at all until after the election.
This also throws what was a 5-4 Republican outlook on the Court into a neutral 4-4 possibility in many cases. Republicans were looking for some major policy changes to emanate from the Court this coming June. Now that looks to be questionable at best.
Republicans will call for the process of selecting a new justice to pass until after the election. The Constitution is clear on this point however. Barack Obama is the president and he is charged with nominating a new justice. Unfortunately Chuck Grassley has shown his disdain for Obama in many ways over the years. So expect Chuck Grassley to do all in his power to stop the constitutional process.
Update: wyldwolf at democraticunderground.com points out that the longest confirmation process ever was the confirmation of Louis Brandeis in 1916:
“Took 125 days. Obama has 342 days left in office.”
(S)he then cites wikipedia as the source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Brandeis#Nominated_to_the_Supreme_Court