Updated 9:35 p.m. | The Senate is about to put the first new judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in seven years.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said this afternoon he intends to push for a vote by the end of the week confirming Sri Srinivasan to one of the four vacancies on that bench. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled he wouldn’t stand in the way of such a move, but needed to get final sign-off from his GOP colleagues.
The D.C. Circuit is considered the second-most-important court in the federal system, because it hears so many cases involving the regulatory actions of federal agencies. Four justices of the Supreme Court were promoted from that appellate courthouse. But, until now, the Republicans have refused to seat anyone new, which has had the effect of giving the nominees of GOP presidents a 4-3 majority.
The GOP looks to be relenting now because Srinivasan, the principal deputy solicitor general, has impeccable credentials and a short paper trail, which has made it tough for either side to be certain of his future jurisprudence, and because another judicial battle now could spark a “nuclear option” move by the Democrats to prevent dilatory death for future judicial choices.
Republicans are already signaling, though, that they will prevent any of the remaining vacancies from getting filled while President Barack Obama is in office, on the grounds that the D.C. Circuit is not busy enough to justify 11 full-time judges.
Update: Reid filed a motion Tuesday intended to get Srinivasen’s nomination on the floor. He’ll need 60 votes to limit debate, or invoke cloture. That vote is likely to occur Thursday.
Senate Republicans said they were willing to allow a vote after the Memorial Day recess but Reid pressed the issue, saying he wants to deal with the nomination this week, even if he has to delay the start of the recess.