Pence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge

Vice President Pence broke a tied Senate vote on Tuesday to confirm Jonathan Kobes as a judge on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The vote was stuck at 50-50 after Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOil companies join blitz for carbon tax The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) joined with all Democrats in opposing the nomination. Flake, who is retiring in January, is voting "no" on all judicial picks until he gets a vote on legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE from being fired without cause. 

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Pence, who was presiding over the chamber, broke the tie by casting the 51st vote to confirm Kobes. 

Pence has previously broken ties to confirm Cabinet nominees and to get judicial picks around procedural hurdles, but it's the first time Republicans have needed him on a confirmation vote for a Trump judicial nominee, according to a breakdown of recent tie-breakers from the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.

Kobes's nomination is considered controversial because he was rated as "not qualified" by the American Bar Association's (ABA) standing committee on the federal judiciary. 

"The Committee believes that Mr. Kobes has neither the requisite experience nor evidence of his ability to fulfill the scholarly writing required of a United States Circuit Court Judge," Paul Moxley, the chairman of the committee, wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general This week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks MORE (Calif.). 

Feinstein, in a recent tweet, seized on the ABA's decision, arguing it underscored Democrats' argument that Kobes isn't suited for the influential appeals court seat. 

"Circuit courts are where most Americans receive final justice. They deserve to have qualified, experienced judges presiding," Feinstein said in the tweet. 

But Republicans have put a premium on being able to confirm Trump's judicial picks and have set a record for the number of appeals judges confirmed during a president's first two years. Kobes is their 30th appeals pick confirmed for Trump. 

Grassley, ahead of the Judiciary Committee's vote on Kobes, argued that Republican nominees aren't able to get a "fair shake" from the ABA. 

"Unfortunately, the American Bar Association is again politicizing a nomination to the 8th Circuit. For the second time in less than one year, the ABA has rated an 8th Circuit nominee 'not qualified,'" Grassley said at the time. 

"I see no basis for concluding that the absence of written work product means Mr. Kobes is 'not qualified.' The most that the ABA could’ve said is that they didn’t have enough information to come to a conclusion about his writing abilities," he added.