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Sen. Klobuchar among names floated to replace Justice Scalia

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U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's name is being thrown around as a possible replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scalia, 79, was found dead at a West Texas ranch Saturday, the San Antonio Express-News reports, with the cause of death appearing to be natural causes. (Read more on what Scalia's death means to pending Supreme Court decisions at the bottom of the page.)

And President Barack Obama said he will "fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time."

Obama has the opportunity to appoint a liberal justice to the Supreme Court, which could end the bench's conservative majority, Forbes says.

That's why it could be tough for the president to get someone appointed before the end of his term. Members of the Republican-controlled Senate are already saying they would try and block any appointment he makes. (The Washington Post explains how that's possible, and Vox goes into detail on what could be the most "acrimonious and high-stakes nomination fight ever.")

But in an attempt to avoid that, Obama will probably try to find someone who at least some Republicans would find acceptable to replace Scalia, who is considered one of the most influential conservatives in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, CNN reports.

And that's why some people are throwing out the name of Minnesota's Democratic senator. Vox says if Obama is looking to nominate someone Republican senators might approve, why not name one of their own? (USA Today also names Klobuchar as a possible replacement for the same reason.)

Though, Klobuchar would be an unusual pick, CNN says, but would be someone who would add "occupational diversity" to the Supreme Court, the New Yorker notes.

Klobuchar was a prosecutor in Hennepin County before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. She's on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so she has some personal connections with the people who will weigh her nomination, reports note.

Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, also floated Klobuchar's name as a possible replacement – and appointing her likely wouldn't take away a vote for Democrats in the Senate.

Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton would likely replace Klobuchar with another Democrat, so they wouldn't lose a seat in the U.S. Senate, Vox explains.

Klobuchar's name was also thrown out in 2010 to replace a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but she told the Huffington Post at the time she'd turn down the offer.

Several other people have been named to expert's lists of potential replacements, with most including Sri Srinivasan, 48, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Read more about him here.)

If whomever Obama appoints gets accepted, it will be his third appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president appointed Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.

What Scalia's death means for SCOTUS decisions

Not only does Scalia's death mean a likely political fight to find his successor, but it could have a major impact on some controversial cases before the Supreme Court this term.

The court has an "unusually large" number of cases to consider, with many of them involving controversial issues including abortion, affirmative action, the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, First Amendment rights of non-union members, immigration and election law, among others, CNN reports.

And Scalia, a conservative who was appointed by President Reagan in the 1980s, was expected to be the deciding vote for many of those cases, Yahoo Politics explains. But now the bench is evenly divided (four liberals, four conservatives), so it could mean no majority decisions on some of those key issues.

The Supreme Court has two options if there's a four-four split on a decision:

If the court splits down the middle, the lower court's decision stands, ThinkProgress says, but it won't create a binding legal precedent for future cases, meaning when Scalia's successor takes the bench the issues could be revisited, Politico says.

The court's second option is to put the case over for re-argument for when the bench is full, instead of issuing a split decision, CNN says. (Note: Any majority decision the Supreme Court makes stands.)

The uncertainty surrounding these cases could last beyond this term, reports note. It all depends on if the Senate approves Obama's nomination to replace Scalia.

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