A Senate panel on Thursday approved a key nominee for one of the country’s most powerful courts, handing President Obama a victory in his push to fill federal judicial vacancies.

Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, who President Obama has nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo: US Department of Justice)

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Sri Srinivasan, the principal deputy solicitor general, for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is one notch below the Supreme Court and considers most legal challenges to executive actions. The nomination will be referred to the full Senate.

The court has four Republican and three Democratic appointees and four vacancies, and filling slots on the bench has proven difficult for Obama. During his first term, the court blocked rules to curb interstate air pollution and enhance cigarette labeling while delaying decisions on workers’ rights.