WASHINGTON, DC: President Barack Obama is due to be among those paying respects at the US Supreme Court on Friday to the late Antonin Scalia, the staunch conservative who served as a justice for three decades before his death last Saturday in Texas.
Scalia’s body will lie in repose in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall on Friday, a day before his funeral service. Members of the public will be able to view the casket after a brief private ceremony at 9:30 a.m. (1430 GMT) attended by the remaining eight justices and Scalia’s family.
Scalia, appointed to the court by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986, died at a Texas hunting resort at age 79.
His death set the stage for a political showdown between the Democratic president and Republicans in the US Senate who are threatening to block any nominee put forward by Obama to fill Scalia’s vacancy. The Senate must confirm any nominee. An Obama appointment could tilt the conservative-leaning court to the left for the first time in decades.
Scalia’s casket is due to be carried up the white marble courthouse’s grand staircase by Supreme Court police officers. It will be placed on a historic raised bier built in 1865 to support the body of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
The public will be permitted to view the body from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (1530 to 0100 GMT)
A large entourage of Scalia family members is expected to attend. Scalia and his widow, Maureen, had nine children and 36 grandchildren. Former Scalia law clerks also will play key roles in the day’s events.
The White House said the president and first lady Michelle Obama will pay their respects during the day.
Obama will not attend Scalia’s funeral on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, a decision that provoked criticism from some conservatives. White House spokesman John Earnest rebuked critics who he said “want to use the funeral of the Supreme Court justice as some sort of political cudgel.”
Earnest noted Obama would go to the Supreme Court building on Friday, and Vice President Joe Biden would represent the Obama administration at the funeral.
Obama’s presence at public events requires a massive retinue of Secret Service agents and security measures, while Biden’s “security footprint” is a little bit lighter, Earnest said, noting the White House had sought a “respectful arrangement.”