As ThinkProgress has previously explained, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is the second most powerful court in the country. It’s also a bastion of right-wing jurisprudence thanks in no small part to Senate Republican filibusters. Two George W. Bush appointees on this court recently struck down clean air regulations that would have prevented “between 13,000 and 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 1.8 million days of missed work or school for each year.” Three conservative members of the court handed down a decision earlier this year that would make much of American labor law completely unenforceable, and render an important agency created to check Wall Street impotent to boot. At least two of the Court’s judges believe that all business, workplace or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect.
Time, however, is a harsh mistress, and several of the court’s older Republican appointees have taken partial retirement in the last several years. As a result, this court that once boasted one of the most lopsided lineups in the country now is split 4-3 between Democratic and Republican appointees. Moreover, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the DC Circuit, a nominee brimming with conservative endorsers and past jobs working for Republican judges and administrations. If Srinivasan is confirmed, Republican-appointees will no longer have a majority among the active judges on the nation’s second-highest court. If another Obama nominee is confirmed to one of the three remaining vacancies, Republican-appointees will be in the minority.
Which explains why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) used Srinivasan’s hearing to introduce legislation ensuring that this won’t happen: