by Ariana Habibi
On April 18, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that could potentially establish President Obama’s legacy on immigration.
The proposed plan would shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work in the country legally. A loss for the president would confirm Republican accusations that he has exceeded the limits of presidential power and not done enough to protect the nation’s borders. A victory would affect the lives of innumerable immigrants.
But much of the focus was on a person who was not there: Merrick Garland.
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama nominated Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., to fill the empty seat. The nomination was made on March 16, and Congressional leaders have yet to show any likelihood to confirm his appointment.
Currently, the Supreme Court has only eight presiding justices, allowing for 4-4 deadlock decisions on potentially landmark cases.
“Judges serve life terms, so the next judge appointed will have an influence on landmark cases for years to come,” said sophomore Pasha McGuigan. “Also, the current Supreme Court splits evenly on decisions often, so whoever is appointed will have the deciding vote.”
Nearly two months have passed since the president nominated Garland to the Supreme Court, but Congress is not likely to confirm the decision. Senate Republicans have vowed to deny the nominee a hearing, let alone a vote.
In a typical, non-election year, it is unlikely that Garland would have been nominated.
“Garland was nominated because he is more moderate than other potential nominees,” said sophomore Erick Torres. “Obama wants to choose the justice, and the only way to do so was to compromise with the Republican-controlled Congress.”
Garland has since held meetings with leading Republican senators, but he and the president have yet to deter the Republican insistence that neither a hearing nor a vote will be held on his nomination.
Congressional members of the GOP believe that Obama has made irresponsible appointments to the Supreme Court in the past, and refuse to chance him making a third. They also believe that the next president should appoint the justice.
“People are questioning whether he should nominate the justice this close to the end of his term, or to allow the next president to decide,” said Torres.
However, the decision on Garland’s nomination could be determined by the status of the 2016 presidential election.
“I think the Republicans will change their minds because it seems more and more likely that Trump will be their nominee, and his chances of winning the general election are quite slim” said McGuigan. “The next president will probably be a Democrat, and if Garland is not approved, even more liberal judges could be nominated, which would be even worse for the Republican party.”