President Barack Obama made a statement on Saturday following news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died at the age of 79.
Obama said he intended to nominate a successor to Scalia “in due time.”
“I plan to fulfil my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama said. “These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party. They are about democracy.”
Obama spoke from Rancho Mirage, California, on Saturday night.
“Antonin Scalia was a brilliant legal mind. … He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape,” Obama said of Scalia. “He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”
“Tonight we honour his extraordinary service to our nation,” he added
The political battle to replace Scalia, who died in his sleep Saturday at a Texas ranch at the age of 79, is set to be perhaps the “most consequential … of the last 20 years,” veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on Twitter on Saturday.
Many analysts weighing in on the political ramifications of Scalia’s unexpected death Saturday seemed to agree that it will be difficult for Obama, who will now be tasked with choosing a nominee to replace Scalia, to get his appointment through a polarised Senate in an election year.
NBC chief legal analyst Pete Williams said he would be “very surprised” if the vacancy was filled before October, when the Supreme Court begins its 2016-2017 term, while legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that Scalia’s “departure leaves a huge political fight in the offing.”
A battle has already begun between top Republicans and Democrats over whether a nominee should be appointed before or after Obama leaves office in January.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) released a statement saying that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President” — a proposition slammed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who said that “failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”
Scalia had served 30 years since being appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan. He was widely known for his staunch conservative legal philosophy, and many Republican presidential candidates have said he is the type of juror they would look to appoint to the high court.
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