Lawmakers urge Obama to nominate Asian Supreme Court justice

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus want President Obama to nominate the first Asian American to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Senate Republicans have indicated in the days since Scalia’s death over the weekend that they won’t consider any nominee from Obama during his last year in office. But members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) urged the president to choose a nominee who would offer more diversity to the bench.

“Over the past several years, CAPAC Members have worked closely with the President to ensure that he nominates highly qualified and diverse judges to the federal bench, and we urge him to make history by nominating the first Asian American and Pacific Islander jurist to the Supreme Court,” Chairwoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Tuesday.

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At least one Asian American has been floated as a potential Supreme Court pick. Jacqueline Nguyen, who is Vietnamese American, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit since 2012. 

Another possible candidate is Sri Srinivasan, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since his unanimous Senate confirmation in 2013. If chosen, he would be the first Indian American to serve on the Supreme Court. 

Members of CAPAC have pressed for more racial diversity in the federal government in the past. Along with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, CAPAC lawmakers urged Hillary Clinton to appoint a racially diverse Cabinet if she wins the presidency during her visit to Capitol Hill last year.

President Obama has made a point of adding diversity with his two Supreme Court picks over the course of his presidency. Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice after Obama nominated her in 2009, and Elena Kagan became the fourth female justice in history a year later.

Apart from Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, who is African American, is currently the only other Supreme Court justice who is not of Caucasian descent. 

Paul Watford, another judge serving on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been another frequently mentioned potential Supreme Court nominee. His selection would make him the third African American to serve on the Supreme Court in history.