By Lydia Wheeler - 02/13/16 06:20 PM EST
Senate Democrats moved quickly Saturday to demand action on a Supreme Court nominee following the unexpcted death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidAbortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate Dem senator urges support for House Puerto Rico bill Reid: McConnell silence on Trump 'speaks volumes' MORE (D-Nev.) called Scalia a “brilliant man” and “dedicated jurist” in a statement and said the work on filling his vacancy should begin immediately.
"It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senate heads toward internet surveillance fight MORE (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the American people deserve to have a fully functioning Supreme Court.
“Although I often did not agree with his legal opinions, no one doubted his commitment or his brilliance,” Leahy said of Scalia, the longest-serving Supreme Court justice. “I hope that no one will use this sad news to suggest that the President or the Senate should not perform its constitutional duty.”
Leahy said the high court is far too important to the nation’s democratic system to be left understaffed for partisan reasons.
“It is only February," he said. “The President and the Senate should get to work without delay to nominate, consider and confirm the next justice to serve on the Supreme Court.”
A spokesman for Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeGOP senator pushes Trump to adopt 'constitutional agenda' Waterways bill eyed as solution for Flint No reason why women shouldn't be drafted MORE (R-Utah), a conservative who sits on the Judiciary panel, said on Twitter after the news of Scalia's death that no nominee from President Obama should be considered.
Marco RubioMarco RubioThe Trail 2016: Warren takes VP batting practice Abortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate US, Mexico have mutual ambassadors for first time in over a year MORE, a candidate for the White House, echoed Lee in a statement.
“The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia's unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear,” the Florida senator said.
"Today, our nation has suffered a deep loss,” he continued. “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 conservative Judicial Crisis Network said Obama should be the last person to appoint Scalia’s successor.
“This president, who has shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws, is the last person who should be appointing his successor,” Carrie Severino, the group’s chief counsel and policy director, said in a statement. “The American people on both sides of the aisle are disgusted with the status quo in Washington and another nomination by this President would just bring about more of the same."
Severino said the next president should make the appointment.
"The people’s voice should be heard in November to determine who will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice,” she said.
—This story was updated at 6:34 p.m.