The White House has narrowed its search for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee to three federal appeals court judges, Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland and Paul Watford, a source familiar with the selection process said on Friday.
Srinivasan, an Indian-American who served under presidents of both parties before President Barack Obama named him as an appellate judge, and Garland, considered but passed over for the Supreme Court twice before by Obama, are considered the leading contenders, according to the source and two other sources close to the process.
Obama is searching for a replacement for long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court.
Senate Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the Nov. 8 presidential election, want the next president, who takes office in January, to make the selection.
A formal announcement could come as soon as Monday. That would give Obama the weekend to think about his final choice and make an announcement before Tuesday's presidential primary elections in five states including Florida and Ohio.
The big takeaway here is that Jane Kelly, the Iowa judge who was supposedly being vetted a few weeks ago as a direct challenge to current Senate Judiciary Chair Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, is not being mentioned as making this final cut.
Take that however you see it. Kelly's name was still mentioned as being in play as recently as yesterday by the Washington Post, although that paper is reporting that the above-mentioned Sri Srivinasan is the current frontrunner.
Leading conservatives who focus on judicial nominations say that, if Srinivasan were nominated, their focus would be on his record, not his ethnicity or origins. But Curt Levey, executive director of FreedomWorks Foundation, said that, until Obama names his choice, conservatives will mainly work to bolster Senate Republicans’ argument that no nominee should be considered during the president’s final year.
To the extent that the White House weighs the nomination’s impact on the November election, Asian Americans are a small niche of voters but growing quickly. Over the past two decades, they have migrated from primarily supporting GOP presidential candidates to voting for Obama by a large majority — 73 percent — in 2012. Young Asian Americans, in particular, tend to be liberal, recent surveys have found.
For the Asian American electorate, “this is a real test to see whether they step up, if Sri Srinivasan were nominated,” said Vincent Eng, a Washington-based consultant who works on judicial nominations with Asian American organizations.
Matsuoka, of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, said that, no matter whom Obama selects this time, there also is “a long-range game. We know there are going to be opportunities. . . . There will be vacancies.”
“Why shouldn’t we have an [Asian American] Supreme Court justice?” said Lorna Ho Randlett, founder and co-chair of the Leader’s Forum, a business and civic leadership group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. “If they’re qualified, and on the shortlist and ready to go, if not now, when?”
So, we'll see.