United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday. Death visited Justice Scalia while he was on vacation at a luxury resort in West Texas, reported the San Antonio Express-News. Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a secluded resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa. Scalia arrived at the 30,000-acre ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people that night, according to a federal official. Scalia failed to show up for breakfast on Saturday morning and a person involved with the ranch went to his room, where he discovered his body. A Roman Catholic priest was called to administer last rites to Scalia.
The news spread quickly Saturday evening, with a response from President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. The remaining Republican candidates for President expressed sympathies for family and friends of Justice Scalia and quickly turned Scalia’s death a campaign issue. Those candidates included the following: businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Obama delivered a statement in person at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Press File, in Rancho Mirage, California. Obama said, “For almost 30 years, 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.”
Obama emphasized Scalia’s background, born in Trenton, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant family. Obama vowed, “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.”
That portion of the statement was in response to Senator Mitch McConnell’s statement on Saturday that the U.S. Senate should wait 11 months for the next president to be sworn in before confirming a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” the Senate Majority Leader said in a statement following the news of Scalia’s death. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Hillary Clinton also responded in a written and in-person statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Justice Scalia as they mourn his sudden passing. I did not hold Justice Scalia’s views, but he was a dedicated public servant who brought energy and passion to the bench.”
Scalia also took a shot at Republicans saying they will sit on a nomination of Supreme Court justice due to the Scalia vacancy. “The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia’s seat to remain vacant ‘dishonor’ our Constitution. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.”
The six remaining GOP presidential candidates on Saturday agreed the Republican-controlled Senate should block anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat.
News of Scalia’s sudden death spread only a few hours before the 2016 presidential contenders gathered on the debate stage in Greenville, South Carolina.
“This is a tremendous blow to conservatism. It’s a tremendous blow, frankly, to our country,” Donald Trump responded to the first question at the debate hosted by CBS News on Saturday. “If I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice,” he said. But he added, “I think it’s up to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.”
And so it went throughout the debate, the only issue is uniting the six Republicans that a nominee should not be approved until the next president is elected.