Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight

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Democrats are seizing on the failed nomination of Ryan Bounds, President Trump’s unsuccessful circuit court pick, as they look for leverage in a fight over confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats say Bounds’s nomination, which was foiled by questions about controversial, decades-old writings, bolsters their demand for documents tied to Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House and as a political operative.

“If Republicans agreed that Bounds is not qualified because of what he wrote in college, how could they possibly argue that material from Brett Kavanaugh’s time in the White House and as a political operative aren’t relevant?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked after a vote on Bounds’s nomination was cancelled.

She added in a tweet on Friday that Democrats are “asking to review all of the records from Kavanaugh’s career to fulfill the Senate’s ‘advice and consent’ responsibility. Reviewing the entirety of a nominee’s record is what the Judiciary Committee has always done.”

The White House faced a setback on a judicial pick this week when it was forced to withdraw Bounds’s nomination to serve on the Ninth Circuit after it became clear he didn’t have the support to pass the Senate. GOP Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) told leadership he couldn’t support Bounds and needed more information on his nomination.

{mosads}GOP senators and sources told The Hill that Scott’s decision was linked to decades-old controversial writings where Bounds voiced skepticism about race-focused groups and questioned the need for diversity training.  

Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) accused Bounds of hiding the writings from their selection committee that reviewed potential picks for the Oregon-based 9th Circuit seat.

Democrats pointed to the decades-old writings as a prime example of why they need documents in advance of a hearing from before Kavanaugh’s time as a judge.

“Republicans just sunk the Bounds nomination based on his college writings. After that, how are they going to argue that Judge Kavanaugh’s White House papers aren’t relevant to his nomination to the Supreme Court?” asked Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

He added that if a “lower court nominee’s college writings are relevant but a Supreme Court nominee’s White House writings aren’t? I don’t think so.”

Feinstein and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, are currently locked in negotiations about the scope of the documents tied to Kavanaugh that should be turned over as the Senate debates his Supreme Court nomination.

In addition to serving as a circuit judge for more than a decade, Kavanaugh worked in the George W. Bush White House, and worked on the Ken Starr investigation into then-President Clinton including helping draft the report that outlined the case for impeachment.

The New York Times reported before Kavanaugh was the nominee that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the White House that his long paper trail could complicate his path to confirmation. 

Democrats argue that Kavanaugh’s Clinton- and Bush-era work is relevant to the Senate’s consideration of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, particularly any writing on executive authority and Bush-era interrogation and surveillance programs.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned President Trump that Kavanaugh’s paper trail would pose a problem, which is exactly why the people deserve to see every single responsive document and email before the Senate considers his nomination,” said Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) added that Bounds’s defeat is “a sign of inadequate vetting and excessive haste.”

“It should stand as a rebuke to my Republican colleagues who are seeking to severely constrict review of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  Restricting documents and time is a great mistake for lifetime judicial appointments,” he said in a statement.

But Republican senators have, so far, balked at the broad demand for documents. Grassley warned this week that he would not let the vetting turn into a “government-funded fishing expedition.”

We will “have the opportunity to look at relevant and proportional emails and other records from Judge Kavanaugh’s service in the White House. The committee will use sophisticated technology to conduct a thorough review,” Grassley added, while saying he expects Democrats to use document demands to “obstruct and delay.”

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Jeff Merkley Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden Tim Scott

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