Senators voted 97-0 Thursday to confirm Srikanth Srinivasan to a judgeship on the vitally important U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after Republicans relented and allowed the vote to go forward this week.
But beneath the bipartisanship, a renewed fight over President Obama's nominees is once again simmering, with Democrats saying the Senate is facing a crisis of dysfunction and Republican roadblocks, while GOP leaders say the majority has created a "manufactured crisis" to create an excuse to eliminate filibusters.
Mr. Srinivasan, principal deputy solicitor general, becomes Mr. Obama's first successful nominee to the important D.C. circuit and also puts him on a potential short list of nominees should a Supreme Court vacancy open up during the president's second term.
"He's impeccably qualified," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. "We may be seeing him coming before the Senate again soon."
Even though they supported his nomination, Republicans had tried to postpone the vote until after they return from a weeklong Memorial Day vacation. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted on holding the vote this week, and rather than go to a filibuster vote, the GOP relented.
Republicans fear Mr. Reid is trying to gather evidence of GOP obstructions to clear the way for Democrats to change the Senate rules later this year and outlaw filibusters of nominations.
Indeed, in the hours ahead of Thursday's vote Mr. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell traded accusations.
Mr. McConnell said Mr. Reid is preparing to break his word on the rules change, and said Democrats want Republicans to "sit down and shut up."
Mr. Reid retorted that Republicans are trying to deny Mr. Obama his team of Cabinet picks and judicial nominees.
The Nevada Democrat said he is not issuing a threat and won't pick a major fight while the immigration bill is pending for fear of upsetting bipartisanship, but he said he expects action at some point.
"The Republicans have shown at this point they'll do everything in their power to undermine President Obama. So it's time for this gridlock end. That is my message. It's time for the gridlock to end," he said.
Both men cited statistics, with Mr. Reid arguing the pace of confirmations is slow and Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, saying it's much faster than it was for President George W. Bush.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said Republicans have rejected just two of Mr. Obama's judicial nominees during his tenure, while approving 193 judges.
"Who could complain about 99 percent?" he said.
Mr. Srinivasan becomes the D.C. appeals court's eighth judge. Four have been nominated by Republicans and four by Democrats. There are three vacancies.
Mr. Obama released a statement applauding the Senate for Thursday's vote but warning of other fights ahead.
"While I applaud the Senate's action, it's important to remember that this confirmation is the first one to this important court in seven years," Mr. Obama said. "The three remaining vacancies must be filled, as well as other vacancies across the country."
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