Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, often seen as the conservative bastion of the court, died last week, setting up a nasty political showdown between Democrats and Republicans. President Obama plans on nominating Scalia’s replacement, a right given to him in the Constitution. But Obama’s nominee must be voted in by the Republican dominated senate. This creates a quandary for Obama, who has to nominate a justice that appeals to both parties.
Padmanabhan Srikanth Srinivasan, known as “Sri” seems to be the logical choice for President Obama. Srinivasan, if nominated and elected, would become the country’s first Indian-American justice. Born in India, Srinivasan is a member of the nation’s top appeals court, often seen as a breeding ground for Supreme Court justices, and has argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court. Srinivasan has a close relationship with Obama and has defended several left-leaning positions, making him a reasonable choice for the liberal president.
But what makes him the odds on a favorite for the nomination on most major betting sites is his appeal as a moderate justice. Srinivasan’s record has been deemed as “non progressive-forward . . . as non-ideological as you can find.” He’s also an extremely qualified candidate. Considered a lock to get on the Supreme Court sometime over the next several years, Srinivasan most notably defended Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling, who was appealing fraud convictions. He also clerked for famous conservative judge Sandra Day O’Connor and was the assistant solicitor general under Republican President George W. Bush. Perhaps the most compelling sign of Srinivasan’s bipartisan appeal was his unanimous 97-0 Senate confirmation vote in 2013.
If the conservative-dominated Senate denies a nominee like Srinivasan, it will certainly seem like the Senate Republicans are denying him just to oppose Obama, instead of deciding on the best candidate for the job. There’s no certainty that the vote will happen either. Many Senate Republicans, including majority leader, Mitch McConnell, plan on delaying a possible vote until a new president arrives in office. But if the Senate does decide to vote on Obama’s nominee and it does happen to be Srinivasan, many Republicans will have a very hard time of saying no.