President Barack Obama paid tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13 at 79 years old (video below).
According to federal officials, Scalia was found dead of natural causes at a West Texas ranch. Scalia reportedly attended a private party at the 30,000-acre Cibolo Creek Ranch resort on Feb. 12 after spending the day quail hunting.
An employee went to Scalia’s room at the resort after he failed to show up for breakfast the morning after the party. His body showed no evidence of foul play.
Scalia is survived by his wife of 55 years, Maureen, along with their nine children and 28 grandchildren.
On the night of Feb. 13, Obama paid tribute to Scalia, calling him “one of the towering legal figures of out time,” adding that he was a “larger-than-life presence on the bench.”
"A brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, an incisive wit and colorful opinions, he influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape," Obama said in his speech. "He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court."
In addition to paying tribute to Scalia, Obama announced in his speech his intention to nominate Scalia’s successor.
“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to name a successor in due time, and there will be plenty of time for me to do so,” the president said.
Republicans have said the nomination for Scalia’s successor should be left up to the next president, with some pledging to block Obama’s nominees until he is out of office.
“The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia’s unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear,” Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a statement.
Democrats have argued that leaving a seat on the Supreme Court vacant until the next president takes office would dishonor the Constitution.
“The Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote, calling on Obama to fill the seat as soon as possible.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that it is “outrageous that the Republicans in the Senate on the campaign trail have already pledged to block any replacement that President Obama nominates.” She also said, “our thoughts an prayers are with the Scalia family tonight.”