U.S. Supreme Court vacancy upends presidential race

A woman walks past the Supreme Court building at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.By James Oliphant and Ginger Gibson WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The sudden and shocking death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia opened a new and incendiary front in the already red-hot 2016 presidential race, one that promises to divide Democrats and Republicans and, perhaps, Republicans from themselves. The vacancy on the court, which is now evenly split 4-4 between its conservative and liberal wings, had Republicans calling on President Barack Obama to refrain from choosing a successor to the right-leaning Scalia while Democrats urged Obama to do as the U.S. Constitution requires and put forward a candidate to face confirmation in an albeit hostile Senate. Facing off in a debate only hours after the 79-year-old Scalia’s death was announced, some Republican presidential candidates seized the moment to caution voters that their party’s front-runner, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, could not be trusted to nominate a stalwart conservative.

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