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Reactions to Antonin Scalia's death as Obama vows to nominate his successor

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, known for sharply worded dissents and caustic attacks on liberalism, has died. His death set off a near-instant debate over how and when to select his replacement, and certainly altered the tenor of the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Obama made a statement late Thursday afternoon in which he offered his condolences and affirmed that he will be nominating someone to take Scalia's place on the bench.

FULL OBITUARY: Antonin Scalia | 1936 - 2016

Obama phones Scalia's son

According to the White House, President Obama spoke with the late justice's son Eugene Scalia to offer condolences to the family Saturday night. 

"The president extended his sympathies on behalf of the first family and the country," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters. 

California's attorney general lauds Scalia

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris offered condolences to Antonin Scalia's family, along with an assessment of his legacy.

"In his three decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia left a lasting impression on American jurisprudence," she said in a statement. "Even those of us who vigorously disagreed with his views recognized the power of his intellect."

Clinton goes a little further

Appearing at a dinner with Democrats in Denver, Colorado, Hillary Clinton went into more detail than her earlier emailed statement about the Supreme Court nomination process.

"Barack Obama is president of the United States until Jan. 20, 2017. That is a fact, my friends, whether the Republicans like it or not. Elections have consequences," Clinton said. "The president has a responsibility to nominate a new justice, and the Senate has a responsibility to vote. And all of us Democrats, we have a responsibility to make sure a Republican doesn’t win in November." 

She noted there are "340 days until the next president takes office. So that is plenty of time." She added that Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in Reagan's final year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch "McConnell should follow the constitutional process," she said.

Editorial: Scalia pushed the court to the right. Will Obama have the chance to push it back?

 (Mona Reeder / Tribune News Service)
(Mona Reeder / Tribune News Service)

The unexpected death of Antonin Scalia ends the long and consequential career of a powerful, intellectually gifted, caustic, conservative thinker who influenced not only the Supreme Court but also the nation -- occasionally for good, more often for ill.

In his rulings and writings, the former law professor and Justice Department official did much to rehabilitate the approach to constitutional interpretation he called "originalism" -- the debatable notion that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the meaning attached to its provisions at the time they were adopted. He had scorn for the idea of a "living Constitution," which he saw as promoting rigidity, not flexibility, in the law.

"My constitution is a very flexible one,” Scalia said in a speech at Princeton University in 2012. "There’s nothing in it about abortion and since there isn’t, it’s up to the citizens. Things change by democratic choice. The Supreme Court doesn’t have to abolish the death penalty. If the feelings of society come against it, it will be abolished by the states."

To honor Scalia, Obama orders flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House

The White House Office of the Press Secretary issued a presidential proclamation Saturday evening stating that to mark Justice Scalia's passing, the flag will be flown at half-staff at the White House and all other government locations and buildings on the day of his funeral.

The full statement:

"As a mark of respect for Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

"IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth."

Scalia talk dominates GOP debate

We're covering the ninth Republican debate on Trail Guide. The opening question was about Justice Antonin Scalia's death and what comes next. 

Obama vows to fill vacancy on Supreme Court, setting up clash with Republicans

 (Charles Tasnadi / Associated Press)
(Charles Tasnadi / Associated Press)

President Obama said he would make his third nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and called for a “timely vote” in a Senate led by Republicans who have said the choice should be left for the next president.

“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama told reporters from a hotel in Rancho Mirage, where he is set to host a summit of Asian leaders this week.

“These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone,” he continued. “They are bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy, and 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.”

About Scalia's friendship with Ginsburg

Reporters caught up with Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, and the former president lauded the late justice for the ability to have "honest arguments."

He said Scalia's ability to listen led to the justice's friendship with liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"I always kind of liked Justice Scalia because he never pretended to like something he didn't," Clinton told reporters in a feed that was broadcast on CNN. 

The former president said he was "thankful for the fact that he was able to live a life where he could say what he thought and do it with a smile on his face."  

"That's what makes democracy work," Clinton said.

David Savage wrote about the unusual Scalia-Ginsburg relationship last summer.

Biden offers condolences to the Scalia family, says country will remember him as influential justice

The full statement from Vice President Joe Biden:

"Jill and I send our deepest condolences to Maureen and the entire Scalia family on the loss of their beloved husband, father, and grandfather.

"Justice Scalia and I had fundamental disagreements about how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, but we shared a belief that sharp debates, tough questions, and deep respect for the adversarial process was an essential part of our judicial system and our democracy. That’s how our rule of law — forged with the deep principles and convictions of justices, and laid out in majority decisions and minority dissents — becomes the model for the world.

"For the country, Justice Scalia will be remembered as one of our most influential justices, who inspired and challenged generations of students, clerks, lawyers, and judges. And for so many, he will be remembered as a mentor, dear friend, and a man devoted to his faith and his family, who will miss him most of all, and who we will keep in our prayers."

Sen. Charles Grassley says the next president should pick the new Supreme Court justice

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) put out a statement echoing Sen. Mitch McConnell's sentiment that the president elected this year should be the one to appoint Scalia's replacement.

Full statement:

"Justice Scalia was an intellectual giant. His originalist interpretation of the Constitution set the standard for the court. He had an unwavering dedication to the founding document that has guided our country for nearly 230 years. His humor, devotion to the Constitution and quick wit will be remembered for years to come. Barbara and I send our prayers to Justice Scalia’s family."

It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)

"The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice."

Graham would vote for a Clinton nominee, but seeks payback from Obama for 'nuclear option'

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), speaking to reporters before the GOP debate, said he would only support an Obama appointee if it’s a “consensus choice.”

He cautioned he won't support a liberal who is qualified, despite having done so in the past. Why? Graham blamed Obama for Senate Democrats changing the rules in 2013, allowing a simple majority to pass presidential appointments, the so-called “nuclear option.” His said his new stance is payback.

“I’m saying the normal rule where you appoint someone of your philosophy is out the window when he changed the rules," Graham said. "That’s the price you pay for abuse of power. Now the rule for me is you better find a consensus choice. I will go back to the normal rule with the next president.” 

"The normal rule that I have lived by is that you vote for qualified people even though you disagree with their philosophy," he said. "I’ve been a big believer that elections have consequence. ... I voted for Sotomayor and Kagan, Alito and Roberts. I told the president and Democratic leadership that if you abuse power and you change the rules for appellate judges and executive appointments, going to a majority you will pay a price with me, so here’s the price." 

Graham moved on to what happens in 2017. 

"If Hillary Clinton wins the White House, and she puts a liberal who's well qualified, I’ll vote for him,” he said. “I drew a red line. I actually mean it. Elections have consequences, and abusing power has consequences.” 

Graham, who endorsed Jeb Bush after abandoning his own presidential bid, added that the Supreme Court vacancy places even more importance on who Republicans nominate this year. 

“We lost a conservative icon. Everyone’s going to talk about replacing him with a conservative,” he said. “I hope conservatives will understand this is a wake-up call, that you better nominate someone and get 270 electoral votes. Donald Trump can’t. Ted Cruz can’t, in my view.” He added that he would not trust Trump to nominate a conservative justice.

Obama calls for 'timely vote' for his SCOTUS nominee

President Obama said he would make his third nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and called for a “timely vote” in a Senate led by Republicans who have said the choice should be left for the next president. 

“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama told reporters from a hotel in Rancho Mirage, where he is set to host a summit of Asian leaders this week. 

“These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone,” he continued. “They are bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy, and 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.” 

Scalia’s unexpected passing set up a major confrontation between Obama and the Republican-led Senate over the president’s prerogative to make nominations to executive and judicial posts, a major flashpoint of his second term. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement earlier Saturday that “the American people‎ should have a voice” in the process, and the vacancy should be filled by the winner of the November election. 

After Obama’s reelection in 2012, Republicans used tactics available to the Senate minority to delay or block consideration of several of the president’s Cabinet, sub-Cabinet and judicial appointments. The then-Democratic majority ultimately invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules by simple majority vote to essentially end the filibuster power. 

That change applied to all nominations except for those to the Supreme Court. Republicans now could simply refuse to even give the president’s nominee a hearing, let alone a vote. 

Battle joined: Obama says he'll nominate candidate

Clinton: 'Dishonor' to Constitution to leave seat vacant

Hillary Clinton, campaigning in Nevada ahead of the Feb. 20 caucuses, issued a statement offering thoughts and prayers for Antonin Scalia's family. 

"I did not hold Justice Scalia’s views, but he was a dedicated public servant who brought energy and passion to the bench," she said.

But she made clear she disagrees with Senate Republicans who want to leave the seat vacant until the next president is inaugurated. 

"The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia’s seat to remain vacant dishonor our Constitution," she said. "The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons."

Senators respond to Scalia's death

Members of the Senate from both sides of the aisle reacted to Justice Antonin Scalia's passing.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio):

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) posted the following statement:

"I am saddened to learn of Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely passing. Although I often did not agree with his legal opinions, no one doubted his commitment or his brilliance. I hope that no one will use this sad news to suggest that the President or the Senate should not perform its constitutional duty. The American people deserve to have a fully functioning Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States is too important to our democracy for it to be understaffed for partisan reasons. It is only February. The President and the Senate should get to work without delay to nominate, consider and confirm the next justice to serve on the Supreme Court."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire):

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted a link to this statement:

"Justice Scalia dedicated his life to upholding the Constitution. Brilliant, principled, and resolute in his beliefs, he embodied the virtues of a prudent jurist. The author of some of the most consequential and best-written Supreme Court opinions, Justice Scalia will be remembered as a giant of American jurisprudence.

"Justice Scalia’s commitment to the law was unwavering, and his devotion to his faith and to his family was unquestionable. Sandy and I are saddened by today’s news, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Minn.):

WATCH: Obama to speak at 5:30

The White House announced that President Obama will deliver a statement from California on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Obama golfed today in Palm Springs while having a quiet weekend ahead of a major summit starting Monday.

Watch the press conference live here:

Sen. Harry Reid says Obama must send the Senate a Supreme Court nominee 'right away'

In a series of tweets, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid refuted Sen. Mitch McConnell's suggestion that a new Supreme Court justice shouldn't be nominated until the next president is elected.

Since the president elected this fall will not take office until January 2017, it would be almost a year after Scalia's death before the next president could nominate someone.

Gov. Brown criticizes Sen. McConnell for 'playing cynical politics' over Scalia's death

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann says Senate must appoint originalist to replace Scalia

On Saturday afternoon, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) tweeted about Scalia's passing. Bachmann ran for president during the 2012 election cycle and won the Iowa straw poll in August 2011.

In one tweet, she mistakenly referred to the justice as "Anthony Scalia."

Bachmann complimented Scalia's writing ability, comparing it to Shakespeare, before reaffirming her belief that the Senate should only approve a nominee with similar constitutional ideology.

Edward Snowden has his say

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