WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama said he will seek to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, charging into a heated and likely prolonged election-year fight with Republicans in Congress.

On Saturday night, Obama said a nomination was “bigger than any one party.”

With a half-dozen or more major cases before the court, Obama said he plans to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time.

He said the Senate should have “plenty of time — to give that person a fair hearing and timely vote.”

The president also praised the late justice as a brilliant legal mind who influenced generation of lawyers and students.

“He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students and profoundly shaped the legal landscape,” he said. “He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Obama’s remarks followed those of Republicans who wasted little time Saturday night, as news of Scalia’s unexpected death spread, arguing that Obama should leave the choice to his successor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” adding that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

His position was echoed by a pair of senators seeking the GOP presidential nomination: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Democrats immediately raised objections. The Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, says 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.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said Republicans calling for the seat to remain vacant “dishonor our Constitution.”

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