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February 15, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court: What Happens If There Is A Tie?

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Saturday morning, leaving a vacancy on the nation’s highest court. 

Leaders in the U.S. Senate have already indicated they would like the chamber to wait until a new president is inaugurated in January 2017 to vote on nominee for the court – something the White House, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats strongly oppose. 

Regardless of the outcome of that debate, historically it has taken an average of 67 days for the president to nominate and the Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominees, which means, at least for the next few months, the court will be operating with just eight justices. The Supreme Court is currently in the middle of its 2015-2016 term and it isn’t expected to conclude its business until June. What happens if there is a tie and justices stalemate on a constitutional question? As USA Today explains: “The high court's ruling is rendered almost meaningless; it leaves the most recent decision intact, usually from a federal appeals court or a top state court.”