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Senate Republicans refuse to consider Supreme Court nominee

Native women send a message to the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

Republicans who control the Senate Judiciary Committee say they won't take any action to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A letter said the committee won't hold hearings until the next president takes office in January 2017. The move comes after Republican leaders in the Senate also said they won't take any action while President Barack Obama remains in office.

Scalia's passing on February 13 at the age of 79 leaves the nation's highest court with just eight members. In the event of a 4-4 tie, some legal scholars believe the justices will rehear a particular case during their next term.

The nomination and confirmation process for a justice typically takes several months so the Republican position would leave the court without the ninth member until well into 2017.

The stakes are high since the court has a record four Indian law cases on the docket for its current term. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. US already went against the Menominee Nation in a dispute over contract support costs at the Indian Health Service. The decision was unanimous.

Decisions are pending in two more cases. The outcome in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will determine whether the courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians can hear a lawsuit against a non-Indian who is accused of abusing a minor on the reservation. Arguments were heard on December 7, 2015.

The court heard Nebraska v. Parker on January 20. The outcome will determine whether the reservation of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska has been diminished. Non-Indians claim their village does not fall within tribal boundaries.

The fourth case is US v. Bryant, a domestic violence case being watched by Native women and their advocates. Briefs are still being accepted and a date for oral arguments hasn't been scheduled.

Get the Story:
Republicans vow no hearings and no votes for Obama’s Supreme Court pick (The Washington Post 2/23)
Senate Democrats won’t hold spending bills hostage to protest GOP Supreme Court blockade (The Washington Post 2/24)
G.O.P. Senators Say Obama Supreme Court Pick Will Be Shunned (The New York Times 2/24)

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