Senate panel approves Kavanaugh successor on key appeals court

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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved President Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Brett Kavanaugh on a key appeals court.
Senators voted 12-10 to send Neomi Rao’s nomination for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to the full Senate.
Most Democrats on the panel skipped Thursday’s hearing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, noted that under committee rules two members of the minority have to be present for a vote to take place.{mosads}
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) signaled that he would move to wave the panel’s rules once every Republican senator arrived at the committee meeting, and questioned if Democrats were “playing games” by trying to delay votes on the judicial nominations. 
Feinstein, appearing to speak with staff, raised the prospect that none of the other nine Democratic senators would show up. But shortly after that Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) arrived at the hearing. 
Though Republicans view appeals court judges as a top priority, Rao wasn’t a lock for being positively reported out of the GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee. 

Concerns from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a member of the panel, which were first reported by Axios over the weekend, raised fresh questions about Rao’s chances.
Hawley said he had been doing his “due diligence” for weeks on Rao, including two one-on-one meetings. Hawley met with Rao on Wednesday, describing the sit-down as “productive.” 
“I will vote to move Mrs. Rao to the floor … and I look forward to the next stage,” Hawley said during Thursday’s Judiciary Committee meeting. 
Hawley’s concerns earned him criticism from some conservatives and The Wall Street Journal editorial board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly lectured Hawley during a meeting this week, according to The Washington Post. 
Hawley hit back at his critics during Thursday’s meeting, saying he was “committed to vetting every nominee.” 
“I know that there are some inside this building and outside of it who would prefer that I do as instructed and go along to get along … That’s not going to happen,” he said. 
Republicans on the committee, including Graham, defended Hawley on Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called some of the criticism of Hawley “wrong,” “arrogant” and “misinformed.” 

Hawley outlined his concerns about Rao in a letter published Tuesday by his office, including her writings on abortion and her “judicial philosophy and approach to constitutional law.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the committee and of GOP leadership, has previously said Rao’s college writings a date rape gave her “pause.” Ernst voted for Rao during Thursday’s meeting. 
Ernst, on Thursday, called Rao’s college writing “abhorrent and reprehensible at the best.” 
Rao, who serves as Trump’s regulatory czar, was grilled by Democrats and Republicans during her hearing about controversial college writings including a 1994 opinion piece for The Yale Herald in which she appeared to argue that women are partially to blame for sexual assault.
Rao wrote at the time that if a woman “drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was a part of her choice.”
Tags Brett Kavanaugh Christopher Coons Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Joni Ernst Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Senate Judiciary Committee Ted Cruz Trump judicial nominees
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