Get the best of Monitor journalism in your inbox.

Could a Republican Supreme Court nominee crack partisan stalemate?

President Obama may have the Republican governor of Nevada on his shortlist to replace Antonin Scalia, the late US Supreme Court justice.

Cathleen Allison/AP/File
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) sits in his office at the Capitol in Carson City, Nev., April 17.

President Obama could be considering Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) as a possible replacement for former US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The subject of Justice Scalia's replacement has been the center of a political storm since his death was announced earlier this month. The nomination of the Republican Mr. Sandoval could serve as a compromise position, if the GOP were amenable to compromise.

But Republican senators have repeatedly insisted they will not act on any possible appointments until a new president is elected.

“This nomination will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the fall,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, according to Reuters.

“This vacancy should not be filled by this lame-duck president,” he said.

Obama has pressed forward on the process, stressing the importance of the nomination process and the historical precedent of filling Supreme Court vacancies.

It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead,” Obama wrote Wednesday in a post on the Court’s blog. He went on to say that he is actively searching for a qualified candidate with “a sterling record,” “a deep respect for the judiciary’s role,” and “an understanding of the way the world really works.”

Obama also referenced McConnell’s statement: “[A]s Senators prepare to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to consider the person I appoint, I hope they’ll move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the Court can continue to serve the American people at full strength.”

This would be Obama's third Supreme Court nominee, following his nominations of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010. Scalia’s departure leaves the court divided along ideological lines, with four liberal and four conservative justices remaining.

If the Senate does refuse to hold a confirmation hearing on Obama’s pick, it would be the first such occurrence since 1875, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Sandoval’s chances of being accepted as the ninth Supreme Court justice are up in the air at the moment, but an unnamed source told Reuters that he was on the shortlist.

“A number of people are being checked out,” the source said Wednesday, adding that Sandoval “said he was interested.”

Sandoval has judicial experience, having served as a judge of the US District Court in Nevada and as Nevada’s Attorney General.

It is not known who else Obama may be considering to fill the court vacancy, although he has said the political standoff over his choice for a nominee will eventually subside.

“I think the situation may evolve over time,” he said.

This report contains material from Reuters.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.