Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a tart-tongued champion of conservative interpretation of the Constitution, has died at a West Texas ranch resort, government officials said Saturday. Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the court, was 79.
“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,” Roberts said. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
Scalia’s death instantly triggered a pitched political battle in Washington, with Democrats urging President Obama to nominate a new justice rather than leave a vacancy for the next occupant of the White House. But top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several of the party’s presidential candidates, immediately called for putting off the decision to Obama’s successor.
Obama learned of Scalia’s passing while on a trip to California, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a brief statement that offered no clues as to the president’s plans. “The president and first lady extend their deepest condolences to Justice Scalia’s family,” Schultz said. Obama was expected to say more later.
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