Barack Obama Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland as the Supreme Court judge over Indian-American Sri Srinivasan, in a significant move that could trigger a showdown with Senate Republicans who have warned the US President against taking a decision in an election year.
Nomination of 63-year-old Garland, the chief judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, fills the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the sudden death of conservative icon justice Antonin Scalia last month.
Obama formally announced his intent to nominate the centrist judge, who has earlier been on the shortlist twice, in a ceremony at the White House’s Rose Garden.
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“Garland would bring integrity, modesty and even-handedness to (the) Supreme Court,” Obama said.
An appointee of President Bill Clinton, Garland is a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School. As a Justice Department lawyer, he supervised the investigations in the Unabomber case as well as the Oklahoma City bombing.
White House officials said that the former prosecutor “has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history”.
The nomination comes at a time of bitter political divide when it would be tough for Obama to get through his choice of the judge and sets the stage for an intense showdown by Senate Republicans who have maintained that Obama should not choose Scalia’s successor, with less than a year left for his presidency.
The Senators have said they do not plan to vet or hold hearings on the nominee, and say the next President should choose the new judge on the nine member bench. However, Obama and Democrats are of the view that that with 10 months left, there is plenty of time for the Senate to take up and confirm a new justice.
Earlier, it was widely reported that Obama could nominate 48-year-old “trailblazer” Srinivasan to the country’s highest judicial body. The moderate judge, who enjoys impeccable bipartisan support, would have been the first Indian-American to be on the bench of the US Supreme Court.