First, let me say how disgusting it is that Mr. Scalia (whom I despised as a jurist, but will honor as a human being and fellow mortal) is not yet removed from Texas to return to his family before the ugliest side of politics is exposed by the likes of Ted Cruz.
That said, Kevin Drum gets it right:
This is going to set up an unbelievable battle in the Senate. I wonder if Republicans will even make a pretense of seriously considering whoever President Obama nominates?
And the answer to that is: No. As Josh Marshall points out, it took less than an hour to settle that issue. Any nomination for the Court is dead until 2017. Which, as Drum points out, isn't all bad:
In the meantime, the court is split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals. So even if Republicans refuse to confirm a new justice, Obama's laws and executive orders are safe for another year in any case for which the opinion hasn't yet been finalized. You can't overturn an action on a 4-4 vote. This means that EPA's carbon rules are probably safe. Ditto for Obama's immigration executive order. Union shops in the public sector are probably safe. Abortion restrictions probably won't go anywhere. One-person-one-vote is probably safe.
Either way, this is now the most important issue in the presidential campaign. Appointing Supreme Court justices has always been one of the biggest reasons to care about who wins in November, but it's stayed mostly under the radar until now. No longer. Both sides will go ballistic over this, and the Supreme Court will suddenly seem like the most vital presidential power ever. If you thought things were getting nasty before this, just wait. You ain't seen nothing yet.
So the GOP may run on this, hoping it gives them some traction. However, what of the EPA? What of immigration? Unions in the public sector? Voting rights?
How much pain will they put up with in hopes of getting one Supreme Court Justice, especially if their nominee is either Trump or Cruz? How great a risk do they wish to take that those issues are left alone by a divided Court and dropped from its docket, perhaps never to return?
What's decided in an hour may well be repented upon for much, much longer.
There is a price to be paid for inhumanity and foolishness, and it is not always paid merely in clucking tongues and the disdain of those with better regard for the customs of decency.