By Ginger Gibson and James Oliphant WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court's future grabbed center stage in the country's presidential campaign with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, setting up an election-year battle over who should succeed him on a nine-member bench that interprets U.S. law over such hot-button issues as abortion, gay marriage, healthcare and immigration. The death of the 79-year-old conservative justice, announced by Chief Justice John Roberts, set up a political showdown between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled Senate over who will replace Scalia and drew swift and furious comment from candidates vying to be elected president in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose Republicans control the Senate, issued a statement saying the vacancy should not be filled until Obama's successor takes office next January so that voters can have a say in the selection.
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Sudden Supreme Court vacancy seizes U.S. campaign spotlight