Ag Policy Blog

Ag Caught in the Legal and Political Aftermath of Scalia's Passing

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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I was taught early in journalism school that there's no such thing as an "untimely" death. It suggests there's such a thing as a timely death."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death truly qualifies as untimely with the swing vote of the Supreme Court, the discourse between President Barack Obama and Congress, and 2016 election now in the balance. The ripple effect from the death of the conservative justice creates a political tsunami.

The seven-year acrimony and political theater with President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans will achieve one last Shakespearian climax lasting until his successor is known. The New York Times noted the fight over Scalia's seat will create a new frontier in political football.…

Agriculture will be swept up in the waves. The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Home Builders and 22 states are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear arguments in litigation against the EPA over the Chesapeake Bay rule on water pollution. Farm Bureau and others have been building to this point for six years. Litigants were expected to find out as early as this week whether justices voted to hear oral arguments. The case will now be decided by the remaining eight justices. It takes four Justices to decide to hear a case. If the Chesapeake lawsuit goes to a Supreme Court decision, a 4-4 split would basically let the lower court ruling stand. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had let stand a lower court ruling permitting EPA to impose daily pollutant restrictions.

In Congress, the political sniping also likely further delays other priorities such as ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement that has been embraced by Republicans.

"The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year," Grassley said.

He added, "Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice."

It is a rarity, though for a Supreme Court seat to become open by the passing of a justice. As the Times noted, "Only three Supreme Court justices have died in office in more than 60 years. Most have controlled the timing of their retirements, and have chosen to leave the bench when the party that selected them holds the presidency and the Senate."

One name being floated as a possible nominee is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a second-term Democrat from Minnesota and member of both the Judiciary and Agriculture committees. It would put Republican senators in a far more uncomfortable position if they decided to delay hearings and a vote against one of their own.

An Iowa reporter also suggested on Twitter that President Obama should consider Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former two-term Iowa governor. Grassley would then be faced with the political complications of stalling a Supreme Court nominee from his own state.

Regardless of who President Obama nominates, you can imagine the next seven months of political sparring are going to be more intense in not just presidential politics, but in congressional races and daily business in Washington.

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Bonnie Dukowitz
2/17/2016 | 3:46 PM CST
Hillary versus Bernie; Bernie has the b____s to state he is a Socialist!
Steve Petty
2/17/2016 | 8:05 AM CST
Here�s Grassley�s statement in 2008, another election year and the last year of the George W. Bush presidency. �The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president�s term.� We wonder why our country is so divided? We change the facts as needed. I'm old enough to remember that there was a time in my life, a politician who lied was NOT rewarded for his lies. Those days, I'm sad to say, are long gone.
2/16/2016 | 8:09 AM CST
And watching Hillary not quite answer a question while Bernie keeps telling everyone how he is going to raise taxes on everyone to pay for all his programs is really a fresh breath of air. And I am sure that either one of them would select a justice that would vote like the only right the states have is to follow the federal governments views.
Raymond Simpkins
2/15/2016 | 9:29 AM CST
Jay they can't pick their nose,let alone do anything else right.
Jay Mcginnis
2/15/2016 | 6:49 AM CST
I hope the GOP keep their obstructionism going, after the "slap stick Jerry Springer style" SC debate the other night either HIllary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will do much better with a Dem majority House and Senate in selecting a Justice.