President Barack Obama will not attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral Saturday, the White House confirmed.
Instead, the president will pay his respects on Friday, when Scalia’s body lies in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court building. Vice President Joe Biden will attend Scalia’s funeral at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the White House said Wednesday during a press briefing.
When pressed for clarification on Obama missing the funeral, White House press secretary Josh Earnest repeated that "the president will pay his respects at the Supreme Court on Friday and he'll be joined with the first lady when he does that."
When asked whether Obama's Saturday plans include golfing, Earnest stressed instead that the president believes it is important to honor Scalia's life and service.
Four out of the past seven funerals for a Supreme Court justice have either had the president or vice president in attendance.
Former President George W. Bush attended the funeral for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Former President Bill Clinton attended the funerals for former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justice William Brennan but did not attend the funerals for Justices Harry Blackmun or Lewis F. Powell Jr.
Former Vice President Al Gore attended the funeral for Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Scalia's chair on the Supreme Court bench and the bench itself were draped with black wool crepe in memoriam Tuesday — a Supreme Court tradition. In addition, a black drape was hung over the courtroom doors.
Despite push back from Republicans who say Obama shouldn't nominate a replacement in an election year, the White House made it clear Wednesday that the Constitution gives the president the right to select a "well qualified candidate" to the Supreme Court.
Obama called Scalia a “brilliant legal mind” in hailing the justice after his unexpected death Saturday at age 79.
"He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court,” Obama said in remarks Saturday night.