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Obama Begins Search for Scalia Replacement

FILE - The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington is shown Feb. 13, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama has started the process to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the White House said Thursday.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama is talking to senior members of his team and intends to nominate someone quickly.

"In recent history, we have not had a Supreme Court vacancy that has spanned two Supreme Court terms," Earnest said. "So the president certainly wants to move promptly so that the United States Senate can do the same in giving his nominee a fair hearing and a timely yes or no vote."

Some Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, say the next president who takes office in January 2017 should name someone to fill Scalia's seat, not Obama.

McConnell is responsible for scheduling the Senate's business and has already said there will be no confirmation hearings for an Obama nominee.

Earnest, repeating the words of the president, said the Senate is obligated to consider a new justice.

"The real question that the American people have ... is whether or not the United States Senate is going to fulfill their basic constitutional responsibility. And I think the American people, including those who are going to cast a vote in 2016, will be watching," he said.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama will be among the thousands of mourners who will pay their respects to Scalia when his body lies in repose Friday inside the Supreme Court.

The public will be allowed to pass by the casket after Friday's private ceremony.

Vice President Joe Biden will represent the White House at Saturday's funeral.

Scalia died in his sleep Feb. 13. He was 79 years old and the longest-serving justice on the high court.