Sanders: Scalia a ‘brilliant, colorful’ member of the court
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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump says he'll watch Democratic debate while en route to Japan 'because I have to' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? 5 things to watch in the Democratic debates MORE late Saturday called conservative Justice Antonin Scalia a “brilliant, colorful and outspoken” member of the Supreme Court.

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“While I differed with Justice Scalia’s views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court,” the Vermont senator said in a brief statement.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing,” he added.

Scalia's death, during a hunting trip Saturday in Texas, will spark a mammoth fight over who should replace him in the heat of a presidential election cycle.

There is likely to be significant pressure on the Republican-held Senate to hold off on confirming anyone nominated by President Obama, who is in his last year in office.

Democrats, however, quickly called on the upper chamber to consider an Obama nominee to replace Scalia.

"The American people deserve to have a fully functioning Supreme Court," said Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE (D-Vt.).

"The Supreme Court of the United States is too important to our democracy for it to be understaffed for partisan reasons. It is only February. 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.”

The Supreme Court is also likely to be a huge issue in the 2016 battle for the Senate majority.