The People, the Senate, and the Supreme Court

By Remy Smith

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death has led to a constitutional showdown between Senate Republicans and President Obama over the conservative justice’s replacement. The inevitable brinksmanship and bargaining of this moment – an extension and culmination of the past five years’ gridlock and conflict – is further exacerbated by electoral antics. While most of the reasons for this confrontation have been analyzed, understood, and twisted to support ideological convictions, one culprit has yet to be vetted: Senate apportionment.

As will be shown, the Senate’s undemocratic apportionment inflates the number of Republicans in the chamber, which, in turn, alters the political dialogue over the Court’s nomination. Rather than discussing whether the Republicans would filibuster President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, or who Obama could nominate to attract Republican support to overcome a filibuster, current discourse centers around Republican refusal to even hold nomination hearings. Though ultimate outcome might not change, the findings call into question Senate deliberation and process, both now and in times when a different apportionment scheme would give Democrats a filibuster-proof majority.

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