Obama: 'I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor' to Scalia 'in due time'

Obama Promises to Nominate Successor to Scalia

President Barack Obama made a statement on Saturday following news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died at the age of 79.

Obama said he intended to nominate a successor to Scalia "in due time."

"I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time," Obama said.

"These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party. They are about democracy."

Images of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:

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Obama: 'I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor' to Scalia 'in due time'
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 21: United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (R) arrives at the American Enterprise Institue February 21, 2006 in Washington, DC. Justice Scalia delivered the keynote address about foreign law and the debate about how it is used in American Law during the seminar called 'Outsourcing Of American Law.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 10: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia walks October 10, 2005 in the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City. This is the 61st Columbus Parade which celebrates both the explorer and Italian cultural influence on America. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 29: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the Philadelphia Bar Association during a luncheon April 29, 2004 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Scalia presented the first Antonin Scalia Award to Philadelphia lawyer and former American Bar President Jerome J. Shestack. Scalia is the third U.S. Supreme Court Justice to Address the Philadelphia Bar Association members in less than a year. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (L) attends inaugural ceremonies 20 January 2w005 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. US President George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term in a solemn ceremony held under unprecedented security on the steps of the US Capitol. (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A.CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI - JANUARY 25: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at the fifth annual Ava Maria School of Law lecture January 25, 2005 on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Scalia talked about religion and U.S. Constitution. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
384802 07: (FILE PHOTO) This undated file photo shows Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC. (Photo by Liaison)
382727 01: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia talks with opera star Placido Domingo at a gala opening night dinner following a Washington Opera performance Oct 21, 2000 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Karin Cooper/Liaison)
382727 17: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia looks at a painting during an opening at the National Gallery of Art September 27, 2000 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Karin Cooper/Liaison)
371151 07: Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, left, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia applaud during the Mass of Installation for Archbishop Edward Egan June 19, 2000 at St. Patrick''s Cathedral in New York. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)
382727 05: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia attends a National Gallery of Art opening ceremony September 27, 2000 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Karin Cooper/Liaison)
WASHINGTON - APRIL 29: (L-R) Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Jason Binn, and Charles Merinoff inside the Correspondent's After Party hosted by Capitol File Magazine on April 29, 2006 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nancy Ostertag/Getty Images)

Obama spoke from Rancho Mirage, California, on Saturday night.

"Antonin Scalia was a brilliant legal mind. ... He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape," Obama said of Scalia. "He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court."

"Tonight we honor his extraordinary service to our nation," he added

The political battle to replace Scalia, who died in his sleep Saturday at a Texas ranch at the age of 79, is set to be perhaps the "most consequential ... of the last 20 years," veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on Twitter on Saturday.

Many analysts weighing in on the political ramifications of Scalia's unexpected death Saturday seemed to agree that it will be difficult for Obama, who will now be tasked with choosing a nominee to replace Scalia, to get his appointment through a polarized Senate in an election year.

NBC chief legal analyst Pete Williams said he would be "very surprised" if the vacancy was filled before October, when the Supreme Court begins its 2016-2017 term, while legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that Scalia's "departure leaves a huge political fight in the offing."

A battle has already begun between top Republicans and Democrats over whether a nominee should be appointed before or after Obama leaves office in January.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) released a statement saying that "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President" — a proposition slammed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who said that "failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities."

Scalia had served 30 years since being appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan. He was widely known for his staunch conservative legal philosophy, and many Republican presidential candidates have said he is the type of juror they would look to appoint to the high court.

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