The sudden death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February kicked off a political fight that has yet to be resolved.
The loss of Scalia, a conservative and an “originalist” in his interpretation of the Constitution, could have altered the ideological complexion of the court.
The prospect of President Obama being able to give the court a liberal majority excited progressives — and horrified conservatives, for whom the fate of the court remained a rallying cry all the way to Election Day.
Obama nominated Merrick Garland the month after Scalia’s death. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already asserted that he would not act on any nomination from Obama, stating that it was for the incoming president to fill the vacancy.
Liberals and Obama protested that this was pure obstructionism from McConnell. But the majority leader’s gamble paid off. Trump’s election made certain that a more conservative justice would be nominated to replace Scalia.