U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the high court, has died at the age of 79, a government source and a family friend told CNN on Saturday.
Scalia died in his sleep during a visit to Texas.
A government official said Scalia went to bed Friday night and told friends he wasn’t feeling well. Saturday morning, he didn’t get up for breakfast. And the group he was with for a hunting trip left without him.
Someone at the ranch went in to check on him and found him unresponsive.
Scalia’s death in an election year sets up a titanic confirmation tussle over his successor on the bench. The already challenging task of getting a Democratic president’s nominee through a Republican-controlled Senate will made even more difficult as the fight over Scalia’s replacement will emerge as a dominant theme of an already wild presidential election.
Soon after news of Scalia’s death surfaced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the vacancy to be filled after Obama’s presidency ends.
“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,” McConnell said in a statement.
But McConnell’s Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, called for the seat to be filled “right away.”
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