President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Replacement for Justice Scalia

The move sets up a major political battle in the president's final year.

"These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should anyone," Obama said of his constitutional power to nominate in the case of a vacancy. "They are bigger than any one party."

In a statement released this evening, McConnell said: "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President."

Senate Democrats were just as adamant that Obama should nominate a new justice, and said they will attempt to keep Republicans from dragging out the confirmation process.

Without Scalia, the court is evenly divided between four conservative and four liberal justices, which could make the leaning of Scalia's replacement a key to court decisions.

The president didn’t directly address McConnell’s statement, saying the day should be used to remember Scalia, a "larger than life" figure who "dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy -- the rule of law."

Following his statement, the president issued a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Scalia.