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Supreme Court scuffle triggering constitutional clash

So as both parties prepare for political brawling, the eight remaining justices could spend the next year hearing critical cases alongside an empty seat, unable to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 split. (TexasGOPVote.com / CC BY 2.0 )

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It only took one man's death to give Congress the opening to permeate its dysfunction throughout the rest of government.

Republican opposition to letting President Barack Obama replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia has sparked a constitutional clash over the president's right to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

Democrats have their own history of boxing out Republicans over court nominees. They concede that Obama's pick is unlikely to be confirmed.

So as both parties prepare for political brawling, the eight remaining justices could spend the next year hearing critical cases alongside an empty seat, unable to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 split.

The mayhem raises the specter of something that Washington long has dreaded: Out-of-control partisanship in Congress would eventually jeopardize another branch's basic ability to function.

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