Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the U.S. Supreme Court, has died. He was 79.
Reports said the judge apparently died of natural causes while visiting a luxury resort in his home state of Texas.
Scalia was first appointed to the highest court in the land in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. He was known for his strident conservative views.
His 2008 opinion for the court in favor of gun rights was his crowning moment in more than 30 years on the bench.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Scalia a "larger-than-life presence" on the court and said he would nominate a successor.
However, Scalia's death has quickly sparked a heated debate over whether Obama should nominate a replacement.
The leader of the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell, said the nomination should fall to the next president.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio also said Obama should hold off on a nomination.
Democrats immediately raised objections. The Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, said it would be "unprecedented in recent history" for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacancy and urged Obama to send the Senate a nominee right away.
Leaders in both parties are likely to use the vacancy to implore voters to nominate presidential candidates with the best chance of winning in November's general election.
Scalia's replacement would be Obama's third appointment to the nine-justice court.
Obama's first two appointments to the court, liberals Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010, both experienced relatively smooth confirmation hearings in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats.
With reporting by AP and Reuters