WASHINGTON (TIP): The widely-expected promotion of Indian American judge Sri Srinivasan to the US supreme court has been complicated by the politics of the day. The Obama administration is proposing another judge for the job in an effort to overcome Republican opposition to filling the vacancy in the president’s final months in office.
The White House is said to be vetting Jane Kelly, a federal appellate judge in Iowa, for the supreme court bench, in order to checkmate Senator Charles Grassley, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a Republican-controlled Senate has the power —which he has he will exercise —to block any nomination by the president. Grassley and many Senate Republicans argue that Obama should not make such a pivotal appointment in the final months of his presidency, mainly on account of the profound ideological shift it could engender.
The US supreme court is currently split 4-4 on ideological lines (with four liberal judges and four conservative judges), and the vacancy caused by the death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, gives the Democratic Party an opening to swing the court’s ideological orientation its way. But the Republicans control the Senate and the House, and top guns of the party, including Grassley, have vowed to prevent this.
Senator Grassley is up for re-election to the Senate in polls to 34 senate seats (onethird of the chamber) that will be held concurrently with the presidential elections in November this year. Obama’s strategists believe that because he is vulnerable, he will not risk blocking the nomination of a fellow Iowan judge who he has praised and supported in the past when she was nominated to the appellate court.
But Grassley has said Judge Kelly, 51, is being used as a political pawn and has indicated that he will not budge even for a fellow Iowan. The political maneuvering leaves Srinivasan, who was considering the #1 choice for the post, in limbo. Of course, it is entirely possible that if the nomination process is not completed in the life of the current administration, he could be appointed by the next Democratic president.
But the process will still have to contend with a 100-member Senate where Republicans currently hold 54 seats. With 24 Republican and 10 Democrats seats up for grabs in November, Democrats could still wrest back control of the Senate.
The ascension of Srinivasan to the US supreme court and the election of Kamala Harris to the US Senate are considered two milestones in 2016 for the IndianAmerican community.