Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Merrick Garland

President Barack Obama (D) will nominate Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, to the United States Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Garland would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of natural causes last month. This would shift the ideological makeup of the court; Scalia was a right-wing conservative firebrand, while Garland is generally regarded as a moderate or center-left judge.

Garland was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1995, but the Senate did not act on the nomination at that time. After Clinton’s reelection in 1996, he re-nominated Garland, who was then confirmed in March of 1997 by a bipartisan 76-23 vote.

This appointment sets up a clash with Republican leaders in the Senate, who have promised not to act on any Supreme Court nomination until after the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. Constitution, however, charges the Senate with providing the president with its “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and whether inaction constitutes “advice and consent” remains an unanswered legal question.