Srinivasan will be the first ever Indian-American appellate court judge. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg previously served on the D.C. Circuit court. No judge has been confirmed to it since 2006 due to Democratic and Republican filibusters. Even after Srinivasan's confirmation, three of 11 active seats remain vacant.
Srinivasan cleared the Judiciary Committee on a unanimous 18-0 vote. He won endorsements from liberal and conservative legal stars including Paul Clement and Ted Olson. The White House did considerable heavy lifting to ensure his confirmation.
Prior to the confirmation vote, senators took turns showering praise on Srinivasan.
The federal appeals courts are just one rung below the Supreme Court. The D.C. Circuit in particular frequently decides cases on executive actions from air pollution regulations to workers rights. It leans conservative as the majority of sitting judges have been appointed by Republican presidents.
The vote to confirm Srinivasan is part of an escalating battle between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the filibuster. The Democratic leader has threatened to change the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for nominees, drawing the ire of McConnell. Republicans, who voiced support for Srinivasan, did not filibuster his confirmation.
But Senate Republicans, who blocked Obama's prior nominee to the court, Caitlin Halligan, are telegraphing a mass filibuster of the remaining three vacancies. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently unveiled legislation to reduce the number of active seats on the court from 11 to eight, arguing that it doesn't need any more judges. He admitted to TPM that he isn't expecting Democrats to support that legislation. They've dismissed it.