Senate confirms controversial Trump judicial nominee in tight vote

Senate confirms controversial Trump judicial nominee in tight vote
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The Senate confirmed a judicial nominee on Tuesday who was rated as "not qualified" by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Senators voted, 50-48, to confirm Leonard Steven Grasz's nomination to be a circuit judge for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Grasz was widely expected to be confirmed, though Republicans were forced to hold open a procedural vote on his nomination for roughly an hour and a half Monday night as they waited for a GOP senator to show up and break a potential tie.

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Democrats have slammed Republicans for moving forward with Grasz's nomination despite the ABA rating him "not qualified."

"A panel of nonpartisan, legal experts unanimously concluded that this man is not fit to be a judge. What else do my colleagues need to know?" Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad Strong job growth drives home choice for voters this election MORE (D-N.Y.) asked from the Senate floor.

He added that "more broadly, these attacks, in small but important ways, diminish our democracy."

Grasz was the second of Trump's judicial nominees to receive a "not qualified" rating from the ABA.

"As you know, the Standing Committee confines its evaluation to the qualities of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament," the outside group wrote to Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Lawsuit challenges Arkansas Medicaid work requirements | CVS program targets high-cost drugs | Google parent invests in ObamaCare startup Oscar Archivist rejects Democrats' demand for Kavanaugh documents Kavanaugh recommended against Clinton indictment in 1998: report MORE (R-Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh GOP lawmaker calls on FBI to provide more info on former Feinstein staffer It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy MORE (D-Calif.), the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Grasz, a senior counsel at a firm in Omaha, previously served as the chief deputy attorney general for the state of Nebraska.

Republicans have stepped up their criticism of the American Bar Association.

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SassePollster: Attitudes toward Trump's farm aid are 'highly wrapped up' in feelings toward president Poll: Majority of Americans support Trump's plan to offer aid to farmers hit by tariffs Hillicon Valley: 'QAnon' conspiracy theory jumps to primetime | Senate Intel broadens look into social media manipulation | Senate rejects push for more election security funds | Reddit reveals hack MORE (R-Neb.), during a Judiciary Committee hearing last month, called the ABA a "liberal advocacy organization."

"That’s not a bad thing. You can be a liberal advocacy organization. You have First Amendment rights and you should use them. What’s not OK is being a liberal advocacy organization and be masquerading as a neutral evaluator of these judicial candidates," he said.

The Trump administration notified the ABA in March that it was ending its long-standing practice of inviting its independent Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to review the professional qualifications of prospective nominees to the lower federal courts on a pre-nomination basis.

Democrats don't have the ability to block Trump's court picks without help from Republicans.

In 2013, under then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBattle of the billionaires drives Nevada contest Senate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Celebrities dive into midterms, hoping to thwart Trump MORE (D-Nev.), Democrats got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominees. Republicans followed suit earlier this year on Supreme Court nominations.

And Grassley decided earlier this year to move forward with circuit court nominations over the objections of home state senators. Democratic senators were publicly threatening that they wouldn't return their blue slip on two circuit court vacancies in an effort to quash the nominations.