Srinivasan’s Judiciary Committee Approval, a Rare Respite from Rampant Obstructionism

May 16, 2013

by E. Sebastian Arduengo

A bit of good news emerged earlier today from the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Sri Srinivasan’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was unanimously approved.

This puts Srinivasan, the principal deputy solicitor general, a step closer to a judgeship that he was originally a nominated for in June of last year. Showing how distorted the nominations process has become, what made this story unusual wasn’t the nearly one-year long wait he endured (unfortunately such waits are now so commonplace that they don’t draw much mention), rather it was how he was unanimously approved. In today’s Senate such bipartisan actions are rare.

While this was a significant win for the Obama administration, it comes amidst growing obstructionism of executive branch nominations at all levels. This obstructionism has been so spectacularly effective that despite the fact that there’ve been three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit for most of the Obama Presidency, he has thus far been unable to confirm any judges to the court. His first choice, New York Lawyer Catlin Halligan, was filibustered twice by Senate Republicans, even though her qualifications were exceptional and had supporters on both sides of the aisle.

Meanwhile, the Republican appointees on the D.C. Circuit continue to rule against government regulation and worker’s rights. Two weeks ago, the court struck down a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule requiring employers to post notices containing information about workers’ rights to unionize. The decision was par for the course for the Court, which also ruled that recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional, struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule intended to control air pollution that crosses state lines, and openly flouted Supreme Court precedent on national security. It all adds up to a Court that’s the most business-friendly (and powerful) in the country, and Senate Republicans have fought to keep it that way.

Even today, Sen, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused Democratsof trying to “pack the court” by appointing people to vacant seats, because its caseload makes it, statistically speaking, the least busy circuit court in the nation. But, Grassley conveniently ignores the fact that federal law gives the D.C. Circuit exclusive jurisdiction over complex administrative law issues that no other circuit has to deal with.

It’s another example of today’s Republican Party, one that grabs any justification, no matter how outlandish, to nurture obstructionism.