U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, has died.
Scalia, whose body was found Saturday, reportedly passed away in his sleep after telling friends that he was not feeling well Friday night. Scalia, who was reportedly in good health, was in Texas for a hunting trip and his body is now being flown back to his home in McLean, Virginia.
President Obama, who called Scalia's son to express his condolences, issued a statement in response to news of Scalia's death, addressing the press corps Saturday evening:
Justice Antonin 'Nino' Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench - a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions.
He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy: the rule of law. Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Scalia, who was seen as the foremost conservative voice on the Supreme Court, to the bench in 1986. Scalia was an originalist when it came to the Constitution, believing that it should not be interpreted using modern reasoning. He was the longest-serving justice on the court.
Republicans quickly politicized Scalia's death, issuing statements arguing that Obama should not appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court, and instead leave the task to the person who is elected president in November.
"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement.
Each of the Republican presidential candidates echoed the sentiment via social media and at a televised debate Saturday night.
"Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement," Republican presidential nominee and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted.
Obama pushed back against such claims, saying he will make an appointment for Scalia's replacement at the appropriate time:
Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia's legacy. I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.
These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They're bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They're about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also railed against the Republican rhetoric, saying Obama should be the one to make an appointment.
"With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible," Reid said via statement Saturday. "It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities."
Scalia, who was the nation's first Italian-American Supreme Court Justice, is survived by his wife of 55 years, Maureen, nine children and a number of grandchildren.