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Obama, first lady join throng of mourners at viewing for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

By Amy R. Connolly and Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Feb. 19, 2016 at 7:19 PM
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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama paid their respects to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Friday as the judge's body lay in repose.

The Obamas arrived at the Great Hall in the Supreme Court Friday afternoon and stayed for several minutes. During the visit, the first couple also viewed a portrait of the high court justice, painted in 2007, that was displayed nearby.

Scalia's casket was taken from Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home in Virginia to the hall at about 9:30 a.m. His casket was placed on a catafalque that was first used by President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865.

U.S. Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Scalia's family, including his wife Maureen and their nine children, attended a private ceremony Friday before the viewing was opened to the public. The ceremony was led by Scalia's son, the Rev. Paul Scalia.

The public viewing, which drew thousands of mourners Friday, was scheduled to be open until 8 p.m.

Scalia, 79, was the high court's longest-serving justice of all the current members. His death Saturday sparked an ongoing political debate over how and when a replacement justice should be named.

Obama said earlier this week that the U.S. Constitution requires that he nominate a successor to Scalia's seat on the nine-member court, and that the Senate give that candidate a confirmation hearing.

Many Republicans, though, have stated that Obama should leave the seat vacant for a year so the next president can nominate a replacement.

The devout Catholic justice will be celebrated at a funeral mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a private burial.

The funeral will be attended by Vice President Joe Biden, the White House has said.

C-Span streamed the viewing live Friday.

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