Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away Saturday morning, marking an end to a historic three decade tenure on the bench. President Obama gave his thoughts following Scalia’s death, marking a much different tone that what was heard from many top Republicans.
Nominated by Ronald Reagan and confirmed in 1986, Scalia was a conservative hero in the Supreme Court. Known for his flamboyant oral arguments, the strict religious Catholic Justice was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and religious freedom, while opposing hot button political causes like a woman’s right to choose and same-sex marriage. At 8:45 p.m. local time, President Obama addressed the nation and gave his thoughts and memories of the fallen Justice.
Referring to Scalia as a “remarkable man” and a “larger than life presence on the bench,” Obama said that the Justice “influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students.” Continuing, Obama said Scalia “dedicated his life to the corner stone of our democracy, the rule of law.” Referencing the Supreme Court moving forward, Obama stated, “I plan to fulfill my Constitutional responsibility 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 hearing and a timely vote.”
While the president’s remarks were thoughtful and respectful, as expected, the Republican response provided a contrast to the commander in chief while vowing not to allow Obama to name the next Justice on the court. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was quick to response on Twitter, stating, “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.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also commented on Scalia’s death, writing, “The next President must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia’s unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear.”
In addition to the conservative presidential candidates, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it known where Congressional Republicans stand. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell was quoted in a statement, stating, “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
Democrats, on the other hand, are pushing back against the Republican response. In a statement released by her campaign, Hillary Clinton challenged Republicans in the Senate, “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan politics.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took a similar tone, commenting, “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.” For historical purposes, during his final year in office, Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy, which Democrats helped confirm in 1988.