The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia slams the issue of the Supreme Court aggressively into the presidential election.
Scalia, an originalist in constitutional theory, often sided with the conservative wing of the court. With many cases decided by the narrowist of margins -- 5-4 -- the the ideology of the court now hangs in the balance. That gives the presidential candidates an immediate dose of reality facing the hopefuls, especially as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Scalia's vacancy should not be filled "until we have a new President."
The issue is sure to be discussed at tonight's Republican debate in South Carolina. But ahead of the debate most of the candidates have already released statements.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz:
"Today our Nation mourns the loss of one of the greatest Justices in history - Justice Antonin Scalia. A champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution, he will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history.
"Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice, one of the best of all time. His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans' most cherished freedoms. He was a Justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio:
"Justice Scalia was one of the most consequential Americans in our history and a brilliant legal mind who served with only one objective: to interpret and defend the Constitution as written. ... The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia's unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich:
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Justice Scalia and send my prayers out for his family in this difficult time. His death is a serious loss to our nation and the Court. He was an essential, principled force for conservative thought and is a model for others to follow. His dedication to the Constitution and love for and service to our country will be deeply missed."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:
"Justice Scalia was a brilliant defender of the rule of law--his logic and wit were unparalleled, and his decisions were models of clarity and good sense. I often said he was my favorite justice, because he took the Constitution, and the responsibility of judges to interpret it correctly, with the utmost seriousness. Now it is up to all of us to fight for the principles Justice Scalia espoused and carry forth his legacy."
Former Pediatric Neurosurgeon Ben Carson:
"Time and again, he ruled based on where the black letter of the law led him, not according to the politics of the moment. For that reason, he has angered Americans on both the left and the right, but he has never wavered in his dedication to the Constitution.
"It is imperative that the Senate not allow President Obama to diminish his legacy by trying to nominate an individual who would carry on his wishes to subvert the will of the People. Given the dire condition our democracy currently finds itself under Obama's ideological agenda, I call on the Senate to stop any attempts to fill this crucial seat until We The People elect a strong Constitutionalist this November.
On the Democratic side, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
"I did not hold Justice Scalia's views, but he was a dedicated public servant who brought energy and passion to the bench.
"The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia's seat to remain vacant dishonor our Constitution. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said:
"While I differed with Justice Scalia's views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing."