Now With Alex
updated 4/4/2013 4:50:04 PM ET 2013-04-04T20:50:04

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest previews next week's confirmation hearing for President Obama's top judicial pick, Sri Srinivasan.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest joined NOW with Alex Wagner Thursday to talk judicial nominees, specifically next Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, President Obama’s top pick to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The president’s last nominee, Caitlin Halligan, withdrew her nomination last month after being subjected to a filibuster by Senate Republicans.

The looming showdown comes as Republicans have embarked on record levels of obstruction during Obama’s presidency.

“We’ll have to see,” Earnest said when asked if recent support for Srinivasan from conservative super lawyers like Ted Olson, Kenneth Starr and Paul Clement would ensure an easy confirmation. “That’s going to be up to Senate Republicans, and whether or not they want to apply the political strategy that they’ve used so much over the president’s first four years in office.”

Earnest called Republican opposition to judicial nominees a “calculated effort to repeatedly obstruct the president’s effort to nominate qualified people to the federal judiciary.”


Video: Will Sri Srinivasan's confirmation process be seamless?

  1. Closed captioning of: Will Sri Srinivasan's confirmation process be seamless?

    >>> next wednesday the senate judiciary committee will take up the confirmation of sri sh srinavasan. he is currently the administration's deputy solicitor general worked for five years in the justice department under george w. bush and he has argued before the supreme court 24 times. most recently, last week when he argued the administration's position on doma. on monday, srinivasan received the backing of conservative superstars, saying he would make an excellent court of appeals judge and urged swift confirmation. but will he get a fair hearing? from senate republicans joining us is white house principal press secretary josh earnest making his debut at this hour. great to see you.

    >> how are you?

    >> i'm doing good, the bench, apparently not so good. let's talk about sri srinavasan, it's rare that you get these three republican heavyweights pushing for something that president obama would like to see as well. do you see it as a smooth confirmation process?

    >> it's up to senate republicans , to decide whether or not they want to apply the pressure that's a calculated effort to repeatedly obstruct the president's efforts to nominate qualified people to the federal judiciary . the final four is coming up this weekend. i had an opportunity to go to a couple of sweet 16 games in d.c. this past weekend what we saw from syracuse university , we saw a team that employed a zone defense that scratched and clawed and trapped in the corners and did everything they could to bottle up the opposition. now syracuse is in the final four this weekend. that's obviously a successful strategy for college basketball . but it's a terrible way to run the country though, isn't it?

    >> it is. although i appreciate your mixing of judicial metaphors and basketball to syracuse fans, they're probably now going to have to root for house and senate republicans , which is weird bedfellow kind of situation.

    >> i hope not.

    >> josh, you know one of the reasons it seems that republicans are trying to block the judicial appointments , are is because the president is sort of forced to be more reliant on the judicial branch to do things. i will read an excerpt from the " washington post " which says giving liberals a greatser say on the d.c. circuit court is posh for obama as he looks for ways to sir kim event the polarized house. do you agree with that?circumvent the pola rized house. do you agree with that?

    >> to actually do their jobs. that's actually evidenced by the nominees that the president has put forward. so if you actually look at just the three most recent circuit court judges that the president has successfully gotten through the confirmation process in the senate , all three of those, all three of those now judges had to wait more than 250 days for their vote. but once they actually got a vote, they got more than 87 votes each. so this is not a matter of putting ideological people on the bench. this is a matter of putting qualified people who have bipartisan support on the bench in place, to do their jobs and to fulfill their responsibilities that federal judges all across the country have, which is to make sure that justice is served in a timely fashion.

    >> josh does bring up a good point, heather. we talk about activist judges , here's the guy who has the endorsements of paul clement , ken starr and other republican heavies. to say that he's going to be doing the bidding of the president is ridiculous. when you look at the numbers, which are staggering, 12.5% of the federal judgeships are vacant, it's not just democrats who are being affected by this. it's the whole country.

    >> well there's something that ties together these conversations we're having between sequestration, and this blocking of judicial nominations and leaving judicial emergencies to cover half of the citizens in your country like it's nothing. it's the idea that conservatives have been trying to prove to us that government is broken for a generation. now they've infiltrated enough power in government to be able to do that.

    >> to gum up the works.

    >> and say look, you can't do anything, you can't get your case heard. you can't send your kids to head start . proving their own theory and it's really detrimental. it's unpatriotic.

    >> there's also a long -- we complained before that nobody was thinking long-term. there's a long-term play we've seen going on since 1980 , through the reagan administration , the bush administration , the conservativization of the judiciary has been effective in an important way. they're playing the long game. if you give this moderate democrat or somebody like kaitlyn halligan, a great potential nominee, a circuit court seat, then they'll be named to the supreme court ten, 15, 20 years down the line. that's long game here. you know equally cynical.

    >> but that assumes, i mean look 2016 , you could have another democrat in office and the question here is, i mean lee, we need three functioninging branches of government. you effectively have one branch holding another branch hostage. this does not set a goodon't know if this is a cynical view. once you've sort of exerted power in washington, everybody is loathe to give that up now that this has become der rigeur, will democrats be forgiving if there's a republican president in office and he wants to appoint some conservative justices? the pattern here is incredibly dangerous.

    >> it's elevated the politization of everything. in the past there was a sort of deference afforded to presidential judicial nominee picks. the same way it was sort of new and different that chuck hagel was questioned so hard. i mean there was not kind of the level of you know, i guess respect is the word afforded to a presidential pick, a nominee. so this, this the game has chang changed.

    >> to be fair, this kind of judicial appointments increased substantially during the last administration, by democrats in the senate against republican nominees.

    >> and those nominees were -- really out of the balance.

    >> and what would republicans say of the cat lin halligan? about the same?

    >> chuck hagel is a republican.

    >> lest we forget .

    >> actually being very effective in making sure that the president, who is a moderate president is putting up republican after republican. and people who i would say that the most of the liberal base would say i don't know where that guy is going to be on corporate rights and corporate power, but that's okay.

    >> it's a slippery slope it didn't start yesterday.

    >> and there could be a taste of their own medicine here. i think it's elevated.

    >> it's beyond that.

    >> the filibuster, josh, i got to ask, you are in the white house on front lawn of it right now. president obama 's pick for treasury secretary, jack lew , got 444 questions, some of which related to blog postings eight months earlier on the treasury website. does the president i mean is there a sort of incredumpb lity in the white house as far as his picks.

    >> you cite secretary lew as a good example. it was unconscionable what senate republicans tried to do to bottle up his nomination. as you point out, he got 444 written questions that were submitted to him. that's more than the seven previous nominees to that position combined. so there is an unprecedented effort to bottle up what was a pretty uncontroversial nominee. jack lew had been previously confirmed by the senate two times in the obama administration. this is someone that had been through the vet, if you will. one other point i want to make which we haven't got an chance to make. if you look at the judicial nominees currently sitting on the floor of the united states senate and you want to talk about uncontroversial there are 15 of them sitting on the floor of the united states senate right now. 13 of them actually passed through the senate judicialry committee unanimously. that means conservative republicans like orrin hatch from utah, jeff sessions from alabama and chus grassley from iowa didn't raise objection to those 13 nominees. they're still on the floor of the u.s. senate , waiting for a vote. even though the republicans didn't raise any objections.

    >> josh, maybe they just need to actually physically sit on the floor of the senate and remind, remind senators that they have not yet been confirmed.

    >> they should actually be witnessing on the floor.

    >> they should be sitting on the floor for hundreds of days.

    >> a sit-in. occupy the senate .

    >> thank you to josh earnest, filled with wisdom and basketball metaphors, thanks for your time.

    >>> coming up we may be living in an of leaning in and having it all, but across the world, women face steep challenge and extreme hardship. we'll discuss progress and priorities when jada pinkett -smith and chelsea clinton join us just


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