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 Schumer'Right to try' is a win for patient rights and President Trump Overnight Finance: White House planning new tax cut proposal this summer | Schumer wants Congress to block reported ZTE deal | Tech scrambles to comply with new data rules OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump 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 GrassleyDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals A second chance for Republicans to reform farm handouts Former US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee MORE (R-Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals 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 SasseGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Trump scraps summit with North Korea For .2 billion, taxpayers should get more than Congress’s trial balloons 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 ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules 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.