President Barack Obama declared Saturday night he would seek to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, charging into a heated and likely prolonged election-year fight with Republicans. Obama said a nomination was “bigger than any one party.”

With a half-dozen or more major cases and the ideological tilt of the court in the balance, Obama said he pIanned “to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time.”

The president said the decision was about democracy and “the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.”

Obama’s remarks answered Republicans who wasted little time Saturday night, as news of Scalia’s unexpected death spread, arguing that Obama should leave the lifetime appointment to his successor.

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