President Barack Obama hailed influential conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as “one of the towering legal figures of our time” after the jurist’s unexpected death at 79, and said he will nominate a successor.
“For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin ‘Nino’ Scalia was a larger than life presence on the bench,” Obama said. “A brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, an incisive 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,” Obama said.
Obama said “today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy,” but said he will nominate a successor.
The Republican Senate majority leader and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Saturday the decision should be delayed, and the next president should make the nomination.
Scalia was the court’s most influential conservative. He was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, and was confirmed unanimously.
Famous for his strong language and fiery dissents, Scalia authored the ruling said the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a firearm, the court’s most important gun case ever.
Obama said of there is “plenty of time” left in his term to nominate the next justice, and for the Senate to hold hearings and confirm the pick.
“These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone,” Obama said. “They are bigger than any one party.”
“They are about our democracy, and they are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life in making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned,” Obama said.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio said Saturday that the next president should choose Scalia’s successor. Ben Carson called on the Senate to block any Obama nominee.
Obama said the decision about who will replace Scalia was one for another day.
“At this moment, we most of all want to think about his family,” Obama said. “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,” Obama said.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.