CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama has nominated federal judge Merrick Garland, who was born in Chicago, for the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year.

In his announcement from the White House Rose Garden, Obama said Garland “is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.”

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The president said nominating a successor to Scalia was a responsibility he did not take lightly.

“I said I would take this process seriously, and I did. I chose a serious man and an exemplary judge,” he said.

Garland got a little emotional talking about his nomination.

“My mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out. So are my sisters who have supported me in every step I have ever taken. I only wish that my father were here to see this today,” he said.

A former federal prosecutor, Garland supervised the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, which he said helped shape his later career as a judge.

“I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands,” he said.

Garland has been chief judge of the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals since 2013. He was first appointed to the federal bench in 1997.

Garland was born in Chicago, went to elementary school in Lincolnwood, and graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie.

“We’re just thrilled. It’s a very exciting day for the whole Niles West family. Judge Garland was a very active student here in a variety of different leadership positions, and we are going through the 1970 yearbook right now. He seems to be involved with everything; debate to theater to political science clubs, and a variety of different leadership roles,” Niles West principal Jason Ness said.

Garland was named a Presidential Scholar and a National Merit Scholar before he graduated from Niles West in 1970.

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He was valedictorian of his class in 1974 at Harvard College, graduating summa cum laude. Three years later, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Garland would be expected to align with the more liberal justices, and that could change the ideological balance of the court for years to come.

That’s exactly what Senate Republican wants to avoid, and President Obama knows the nomination will face a bitter opposition in Congress.

Senate Republicans have promised not to hold confirmation hearings or vote on any Supreme Court nominee offered by Obama, saying the nomination should be up to the next president.

A respected long-time jurist and former prosecutor, under normal circumstances Garland would be seen as a very safe pick. He has a long record highly regarded by conservatives and liberals. He was floated as a possible Supreme Court nominee in 2010, when Justice John Paul Stevens retired, and at the time, Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch called him a “consensus nominee” before Obama selected Elena Kagan.

Hatch assisted in securing Garland’s confirmation to the appeals court in 1997, but on Wednesday the Senator said the Senate Judiciary Committee was unlikely to give Garland a hearing, calling the atmosphere in Washington “too corrosive.”

“I think highly of Judge Garland. But his nomination doesn’t in any way change current circumstances. I remain convinced that the best way for the Senate to do its job is to conduct the confirmation process after this toxic presidential election season is over. Doing so is the only way to ensure fairness to a nominee and preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Hatch said.

In pushing forward with Garland as his nominee, Obama said he is fulfilling his constitutional duty, and he called on senators to do their job.

“I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing and then an up or down vote. If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair. It will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics, everything. It will provoke an endless cycle of more tit for tat and make it increasingly impossible for any president, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin also said Republicans should grant Garland a hearing and vote.

“No Senate has ever denied a hearing to a Presidential nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. In the name of fairness and our Constitution, the Senate Republican majority must do its job and give Judge Garland a public hearing and a timely vote,”

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who is facing a re-election battle against U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, has broken ranks from other Senate Republicans and said Obama should send a nominee to the Senate for consideration.

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“The Senate’s constitutionally defined role to provide advice and consent is as important as the president’s role in proposing a nominee, and I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications,” Kirk said Wednesday.