President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden both offered condolences after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday after a battle with cancer — but they also quickly drew lines in the sand about how and when to move forward with replacing her on the court.
Ginsburg's death has set up a fierce political battle between Republicans and Democrats over filling her seat on the nine-person Supreme Court, which already has a conservative majority.
"We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices," Trump tweeted Saturday. "We have this obligation, without delay!"
Biden, who called her "unflinching" and a "consistent and reliable" jurist who cared about every American's civil rights, said in brief remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday night that her replacement should not come until after the election, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calling for a hearing and a vote.
"Her opinions and her dissent are going to continue to shape the basis for our law for a generation. And, you know, tonight and the coming days, we should focus on the loss of the justice, and her enduring legacy," he said. "But there is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick a president, the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. "
During Barack Obama's presidency, there was a political controversy when he nominated federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist, in 2016 and McConnell refused to allow a hearing, citing an election year.
Later Friday night, Biden tweeted a statement on Ginsburg, describing her as an "American hero."
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She was an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise," Biden said.
Trump, who held a rally Friday in Bemidji, Minnesota, told reporters after the event that he was stunned to hear about her passing.
"She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life," Trump told reporters. "I'm actually saddened to hear that. I am saddened to hear that."
Trump also tweeted out a more complete statement on her death Friday night, calling her a "titan of the law."
"A fighter to the end, Justice Ginsburg battled cancer, and other very long odds, throughout her remarkable life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ginsburg family and their loved ones during this difficult time," Trump said in the statement. "May her memory be a great and magnificent blessing to the world."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News on Friday that Trump did not know of Ginsburg's passing while on stage in Minnesota, but said he admired her tenacity. Flags at the White House have been lowered to honor Ginsburg, she said.
"Tonight we honor her legacy," she said. "If you could sum up this woman, she was an overcomer. That's what she was. She will have a place in American history."
During the 2016 election, she called then-candidate Trump a "faker" who "really has an ego." In response, he lashed out at her on Twitter, saying "her mind is shot," and called on her to resign. Ginsburg later apologized for her comments.
Despite her health issues, Ginsburg, nominated by President Bill Clinton, had remained an active justice during the court's oral arguments. Last year, she missed a courtroom argument for the first time since she took her seat on the bench in 1993.
She was also active during the court's current term, which ended in July, in 5-4 decisions that overturned a state law restricting access to abortion, and that blocked the Trump administration from shutting down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows young people known as "Dreamers" to remain in the United States.