Republican talk of holding a Supreme Court seat vacant for four years is without precedent

From The Washington Post:

One issue weighing heavily on Republican minds these days is the Supreme Court seat vacated in February with the passing of Antonin Scalia. In an unprecedented step earlier this year, Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland, arguing instead that American voters should have a say in the process by voting in a new president and letting that person nominate the next justice.

Given the likelihood (albeit a slightly diminishing one) of a Hillary Clinton victory next week, Senate Republicans are starting to shift the goalposts by suggesting they might opt to leave Scalia’s seat open indefinitely if Clinton takes the White House.

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” John McCain told a Philadelphia radio station two weeks ago. McCain’s office subsequently toned down his pledge of blanket opposition, but a week later Ted Cruz breathed new life into the idea, telling reporters that there was a “long historical precedent” for having a court with fewer than nine justices.

More recently, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr was even more explicit, telling a private gathering of Republicans in Mooresville, N.C. that “if Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court.”

An extended vacancy like the one Burr is proposing is absolutely without precedent in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. The longest Supreme Court vacancy on record is 841 days, or about two years and three months, according to an analysis of historical records conducted by the Pew Research Center. That vacancy opened up in 1844, but as Pew’s …

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