Justice Antonin Scalia has died, setting off a battle over replacing him – Al Jazeera America

11 months ago Comments Off on Justice Antonin Scalia has died, setting off a battle over replacing him – Al Jazeera America

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died, setting up a major political showdown between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Senate over who will replace him and when that appointment should take place. 

“On behalf of the court and retired justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Saturday, calling Scalia, 79, an “extraordinary individual and jurist.”

Obama said he will “fulfill my Constitutional responsibility” to nominate Scalia’s successor to the Supreme Court.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in a statement that “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 Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, countered that Obama should send the Senate a nominee “right away.”

“With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible,” Reid said.

“It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat,” Reid said in a statement.

Leaders in both parties are likely to use the vacancy to implore voters to nominate presidential candidates with the best chance of winning in November’s general election.

Scalia’s death was first reported by the San Antonio News-Express, who said he had apparently died of natural causes while visiting a luxury resort in West Texas.

Appointed to the top U.S. court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Scalia was known for his strident conservative views and theatrical flair in the courtroom.

Obama, who is traveling in California, extended his condolences, and the White House said he would have more to say about Scalia’s death later on Saturday.

The U.S. president will face a stiff battle to win confirmation of a nominee to replace the dead jurist. As McConnell’s statement suggests, Republicans in the Senate are likely to delay in the hope that one of their own wins the November election.

An appointment by Obama could tilt the balance of the nation’s highest court, which now consists of four conservatives and four liberals, if he is successful in pushing his nomination through the Senate confirmation process. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sometimes joins with the liberals on high-profile issues, including gay rights and the death penalty.

Justice Antonin Scalia has died, setting off a battle over replacing him – Al Jazeera America