Replacing Antonin Scalia on Supreme Court Becomes Political Battleground

President Obama and top Republican leaders prepare to battle over replacing the conservative justice.
4:57 | 02/14/16

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Transcript for Replacing Antonin Scalia on Supreme Court Becomes Political Battleground
localities, and citizens. His biggest defeat, without question, abortion. He desperately wanted to overturn roe versus wade. He was never able to. The battle to decide who comes next. President Obama says he'll make the a successor. The senate says they won't let it happen. The battle lines drawn immediately. Reporter: Even before immediately, the if that's possible. Because Ted Cruz put out a statement that staid next president should be the one that replaces Scalia before a the supreme court officially confirm that Scalia was dead. Mitch Mcconnell put out a statement saying much the same thing, less than an hour after the court made the statement. These battle lines were drawn immediately. And in the debate last night, with the republican presidential candidates, all six of them agreed, saying that there is no way that Barack Obama should be allowed to name a replacement for justice Scalia. This debate has just begun. It has. Let's bring in ABC news chief legal analyst Dan Abrams. Good morning. Good morning. A lot of names being floated as potential nominees as president. These are people that have been confirmed by the United States senate. There's a short list. A lot of them are court of appeals judges. They've gone to the senate. They've been confirmed. Some people will say, wait a second. This person or that person was confirmed with relatively little opposition. The rules are different. Everything has changed now. Two reasons. Number one, the presidential campaign. Number two you're talking about justice Scalia. Justice Scalia's memory for conservatives is so important that this time, anything that happened in the past is not particularly relevant to what is going happen now. Point being, it's going to be nearly impossible for president Obama to get through the senate almost anyone who has been on his short list. How does the court function with only eight justices can they move forward on cases in front of them? Yeah, and there are 4 to 4 decisions. The court often divided 5-4. Some of the opinions, you'll now see 4-4. What does that mean? The lower court opinion gets effectively confirmed. So whatever the lower court decided previously stands. But, the supreme court then is not setting precedent. Meaning you can't cite that opinion in the future to say, a ha, but the supreme court previously ruled xx, Y, or Z. It remains effectively a local decision confirmed without a definitive opinion from the supreme court. The possibility of creating quite a mess for the court system. Is there a precedent for court having to muddle through down one justice? Yeah. Justices do recuse themselves in certain cases. They say, for example, relatively new to the court. I was involved in the case at a solicitor general or some other way. So I can't be involved. The supreme court does sometimes have 4 to 4 rulings. It's rare. The idea that you're talking a year, 18 months, of 4-4 decisions by divided court is completely unprecedented. Thank you, Dan. He served for 30 years on the supreme court. Some are calling him the most influential justice in recent memory. We want to bring in cokie Roberts, who joins us from south Carolina. Thank you for joining us this morning. Hi, Paula. Good to be with you. First and foremost, how do you think justice Scalia would want to be remembered. He had a legacy of being a constitutional purist. I think that is exactly how he would like to be remembered. As someone who cared desperately about the constitution and followed it to the letter by his lights. And did it with great intellect and some humor and sometimes, scathingly. And, in ways that really could take down the lawyers in the case or his colleagues on the court. Remarkably, given all that, he was incredibly well liked. You're familiar with him. The last time you saw him was at party. He was singing in good spirits. What was striking to you about him?

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