Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday died of natural causes at a resort in Texas, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Scalia, 79, was at the Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa. He was reportedly found in his room when he did not show up for breakfast.
“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. “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
With a tenure of nearly 30 years, Scalia was the longest-serving justice on the bench. Scalia was considered one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court. His death could upset the balance of the bench, which up until this point sat at five conservatives and four liberals.
President Obama said on Saturday night that he will nominate a successor, but his nominee will likely face a tough confirmation fight in a GOP-controlled Senate during an election year. Obama recalled Scalia’s wit and love of music during a brief speech Saturday, in which he thanked the justice’s family “for sharing Justice Scalia with our country.”
Of Scalia’s replacement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “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.”
“The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away,” leading Democratic Senator Harry Reid tweeted. “The Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible.”
“Sad news indeed,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted. “While we disagreed on many issues, Justice Scalia was a brilliant man & a great son of Queens w/ a genuine joy for life.”
Several presidential hopefuls expressed their thoughts on Scalia and his potential replacement. Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio said that the next president must appoint Scalia’s successor. Sen. Bernie Sanders called Scalia a “brilliant” justice.
“While I differed with Justice Scalia’s views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of #SCOTUS,” Sanders told ABC.