Republicans unhappy as President Obama weighs up Supreme Court options after death of Antonin Scalia

White House intends to ignore calls on Obama to desist from attempting to seat a replacement for Justice Scalia

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The Independent US

An Indian-born judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington and a Latina lesbian sitting on Colorado’s top court are being mentioned as possible picks to replace Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court as was Loretta Lynch, already the first black woman to serve as Attorney General.

The White House intends to ignore calls on President Barack Obama from top Republicans to desist from attempting to seat a replacement for Justice Scalia, who reigned as the most powerful conservative voice on the Supreme Court for three decades before dying suddenly at the weekend on a Texas ranch.

Speculation about how Mr Obama will proceed is rampant.  While he can nominate a candidate in the hopes of giving the Court a newly liberal complexion for years to come, no one will be seated without a vote of approval by the US Senate.  Because it is under Republican control, that may not happen.

Mr Obama is likely, therefore, either to choose somebody who has already won favour from Republicans on Capitol Hill for whatever job they are in now or whose profile would make them a historic choice for the Court with the result that obstructionist tactics may come at a high political cost to the Republican Party just as the country prepares to elect a new president and Congress in November.

 Antonin Scalia died on a quail hunting trip in Marfa, Texas (AP)

Many eyes are already settling on Sri Srinivasan, 48, who came to the US with his parents from India when he was a young child.  Not only would his choice help fire up the Democrat base - he would be the first Hindu to serve on the top court in history - but choosing him could cause maximum awkwardness for the Republicans who only two years ago overwhelmingly supported his elevation to the District Court of Appeals in the capital. 

Ms Lynch, a former Brooklyn top prosecutor, also eventually won the acquiescence of Republicans after one of the longest confirmation battles ever to succeed Eric Holder as US Attorney General.  Thus, Republicans may equally have a hard job explaining why she doesn’t qualify for the top court.

It will be at least a week before Mr Obama announces who he favours, not least because the US Senate is currently away on recess.  Other candidates who could be in play include Monica Márquez, who has already made a mark serving as the first lesbian on the Colorado Supreme Court, and Vietnam-born Lucy Koh, the first Asian American district judge in the Northern Circuit of California.

Sri Srinivasan worked on Al Gore’s legal team during “Bush v. Gore” (Getty)

Some Democrats may be queasy about Mr Srinivasan, who, if appointed and confirmed, would be on the Supreme Court for life. When was approved by a 97-0 vote on the floor of the Senate for his current most, even Ken Starr, the prosecutor in the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, had supported his nomination.  He once worked for Enron and for retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

”Is Srinivasan a progressive?” Robert Reich, the former Labour Secretary under Bill Clinton, asked on his Facebook page, before giving him the benefit of the doubt. “In 2000, he worked on Al Gore’s legal team in the infamous Supreme Court case of ‘Bush v. Gore’. My suspicion is Obama couldn’t do better than Srinivasan. No other nominee will get a majority of Senate votes.”

The Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, almost as one insist that no one will be confirmed before Mr Obama leaves office in eleven months.  (Although some Republican Senators facing tough re-election battles this year are being notably muted.)   And Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who is running for president, are already working hard to accuse the Republicans of, amongst other things, hypocrisy for ignoring their constitutional responsibility. 

It would be “sheer dereliction of duty for the Senate not to have a hearing, not to have a vote,” Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judicial Committee, said, adding that the Republican leadership would be making a “terrible mistake”.

Speaking the campaign trail in Nevada, which will soon hold caucuses to help determine the presidential nominees from both parties, Mrs Clinton also sought to ignite voter indignation by noting that among the issues that now may become hung up in the court following the death of Mr Scalia is immigration law.  Hispanic immigrants make up a large voting block in the state.

“Because of his passing, there will be most likely a tie, four to four, on important issues that affect so many people in our country,” the Democratic front-runner said.