President Barack Obama said he will nominate a Supreme Court justice after the sudden death of Antonin Scalia on Saturday opened a vacancy on the bench.
Republicans have said the Supreme Court seat should not be filled until after the upcoming presidential election. Obama's national address on Saturday was primarily about Scalia's life and legal career, but he also promised to fulfill his "constitutional responsibilities" and nominate a successor to Scalia.
"Today is a time to remember Justice Scalia's legacy," Obama said. "I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time — and there will be plenty of time for me to do so, and (for) the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote."
Obama added: "These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, to make sure it functions as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned."
Below is a transcript of President Obama's speech:
Good evening, everybody. For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia was a larger than life presence on the bench. A brilliant legal mind with an energetic style — and decisive wit and colorful opinions. He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy and the rule of law. Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.
Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, to an Italian immigrant family. And after graduating from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, he worked at a law firm and taught law before entering a life of public service. He rose from assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Council and the judge on the DC Circuit Court to associate justice of the Supreme Court.
A devout Catholic, he was a proud father of nine children and grandfather to many loving grandchildren. Justice Scalia was both an avid hunter and opera lover and had a passion for music that he shared with his dear colleague and friend Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Michelle and I were proud to welcome him to the White House, including to a state dinner for Prime Minister David Cameron, and tonight we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man.
Obviously today is a time to remember Justice Scalia's legacy. I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time — and there will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy.
They are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life — and making sure it functions as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned. But at this moment, we most of all want to think about his family. Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies to Justice Scalia's wife Maureen and their loving family, a beautiful symbol of a life well lived. We thank them for sharing Justice Scalia with our country. God bless them all, and God bless the United States of America.