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All decks cleared for Srinivasan's bid to a top US court

Last updated on: May 17, 2013 09:08 IST

All decks cleared for Srinivasan's bid to a top US court

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

The US Senate judiciary committee's unanimous approval to Srikanth 'Sri' Srinivasan's nomination has ensured his confirmation by Senate to be a slam dunk; and seat on influential DC Appeals Court could be catalyst toward the Indian American judge's Supreme Court nomination, reports Aziz Haniffa.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the nomination of Srikanth 'Sri' Srinivasan, 46, to a federal judgeship in the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia -- the nation's second highest court -- and sent it to the full Senate for a vote, where his confirmation is expected to be a formality.

Srinivasan, currently the principal deputy solicitor general, who is already being talked of as a potential Supreme Court nominee the next time a vacancy arises in America's highest court, received the nod from all 18 Senators in the judiciary committee, including the ranking Republican on the panel, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who had subjected him to some tough grilling when he appeared before the committee on April 10.

His confirmation -- besides the 18-0 yes vote by the committee members -- is expected to be slam dunk because not only did Grassley vote for his confirmation but also said Srinivasan had 'the correct judicial temperament' and pooh-poohed concerns - particularly those expressed by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York that Srinivasan's nomination would be filibustered, calling them 'totally unfounded.'

Committee chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said, "I am glad we are moving forward with this fine nominee," but noted, "The DC Circuit Court has three additional vacancies, and I look forward to filling those as well".

The White House quickly issued a statement applauding the committee's approval of Srinivasan's nomination, with spokesman Jay Carney saying that "Srinivasan's confirmation will be an important first step to filling the court's four vacancies".

Carney asserted that "the full Senate should act without any unnecessary delay".

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Image: Srikanth 'Sri' Srinivasan
Photographs: Rediff archives

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On the verge of creating history

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Once the full Senate confirms Srinivasan and he takes his seat on the influential appeals court, he would become the first South Asian American circuit court judge in the history of the Indian American immigrant experience.

The judiciary committee, also by a voice vote, approved the nomination of another Asian American, Raymond Chen, to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Chen is currently the deputy general counsel for intellectual property law and solicitor for the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The Chandigarh-born, Lawrence, Kansas-raised Srinivasan, was nominated by Obama on June 11, 2012, nearly 10 months after he was appointed principal deputy solicitor general by the president, replacing yet another trailblazing Indian American, Neal Kumar Katyal.

But more than six months after he was nominated by Obama, on January 2, 2013, Srinivasan's nomination was returned to the president, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate. On January 3, Obama re-nominated him for the same office.

The judiciary committee's unanimous approval of Srinivasan was also hailed by Congressman Ami Bera, California Democrat, and the only Indian American lawmaker in the US Congress, who along with other senior US Democratic lawmakers like Congressman Mike Honda and Congresswomen Judy Chu of California, Grace Meng of New York and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii -- and the only Hindu American in the US House -- were on hand in the committee room during the April 10 hearing in a show of support.

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Photographs: Rediff archives

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'We move closer to a judiciary that better mirrors the nation it serves'

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Bera in a statement, immediately on hearing of the Senate committee's unanimous approval of Srinivasan, said, "I'm so pleased that the Senate judiciary committee unanimously approved Sri Srinivasan's appointment to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, I hope that majority leader (Harry) Reid (Nevada Democrat) will swiftly bring the appointment to the Senate floor for a vote".

Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said, "As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May, I am thrilled that the Senate judiciary committee has approved the nominations of two outstanding Asian American judicial nominees: Sri Srinivasan and Raymond T Chen".

Honda, the CAPAC Chair Emeritus, said, "Today's historic votes for Srikanth 'Sri' Srinivasan -- who would become the first South Asian on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation's second-most powerful court -- and Raymond Chen to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, are a victory for our nation."

He thanked "the Senate judiciary committee for taking not one, but two, giant steps toward a more equitable representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on the federal bench".

Honda also applauded the president "for their nominations and his unwavering commitment to diversity that truly reflects America. Today's votes move us closer to a judiciary that better mirrors the nation it serves".


Image: Mike Honda
Photographs: Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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