SCOTUS | KNKX

SCOTUS

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks about the coronavirus during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Washington.
Alex Brandon / The Associated Press

Both of Washington's U.S. senators are Democrats, putting them in their chamber's minority. That puts them in a tough position as the Senate seeks to confirm President Donald Trump's third Supreme Court nominee.

The unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the looming face-off between the White House and the Senate over his replacement have revived proposals that would limit the tenure of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Legal scholars from both political parties renewed a call Tuesday to reconsider how much time justices spend on the high court. Many of them cited, with disapproval, a bruising and protracted clash building between President Obama and the GOP-controlled Senate over when and how to fill Scalia's vacancy.

President Obama said Tuesday that despite Republican vows to block him, he will nominate a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly on Saturday.

Obama spoke during a news conference after a summit with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Rancho Mirage, Calif., but the first questions from reporters were about filling the empty Supreme Court seat.

Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aimed to squash any expectation that President Obama will get to name his successor.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," he said in a statement. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

The heart of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan is now on hold, after the Supreme Court granted a stay request that blocks the EPA from moving ahead with rules that would lower carbon emissions from the nation's power plants.

The case is scheduled to be argued in June, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But a decision could be long in coming, particularly if the case winds up in the Supreme Court — meaning that the rules' fate might not be determined before a new presidential administration comes into power in 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Florida's process of allowing judges, not juries, to decide whether to impose the death penalty is unconstitutional.

The 8-1 vote — Justice Samuel Alito was the lone dissenter — reverses a 2014 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the court's opinion, writing: "The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury's mere recommendation is not enough."