The president and first lady will instead pay their respect to the justice when he lies in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday.
By ELIZA COLLINS 02/17/16 01:32 PM EST Updated 02/17/16 03:40 PM EST
President Barack Obama will not attend Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral on Saturday, the White House said, adding that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden will be at the services.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama instead will go to the Supreme Court on Friday “to pay their respects to Justice Scalia” while the justice lies in repose in the Great Hall, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.
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The most recent member of the Supreme Court to die was Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005. In that instance, President George W. Bush not only attended the funeral, he also eulogized Rehnquist, who had been nominated to the court by Richard Nixon.
Scalia’s death ripped open a political seam when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell almost immediately issued a statement calling for Scalia’s replacement to be delayed until the next president is in office. Obama has promised to nominate someone before the election.
At another point in the briefing, Earnest remarked that Obama “regrets” his own decision as a senator to filibuster against President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, in 2006. But, he said, the situation was different.
“The president considered the qualifications and world view and credentials and record of the individual that President Bush put forward and then-Sen. Obama raised some objections,” Earnest said. “And what the president regrets is that Senate Democrats didn’t focus more on making an effective public case about those substantive suggestions.”
Obama was pressed about his support of the filibuster against Alito during a press conference on Tuesday, responding that it’s not a parallel to today. “I think what’s fair to say is that how judicial nominations have evolved over time is not historically the fault of any single party,” he said. Obama also threw in, “What is also true is Justice Alito is on the bench right now.”
Nick Gass contributed to this report.