Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court
Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted to confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE's nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court rules immigrants who fear torture can appeal deportations in court It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled Supreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions MORE on an influential circuit court.
Senators voted 53-46 on Neomi Rao's nomination to fill the seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left vacant by Kavanaugh's ascension to the Supreme Court.
No Democrats voted for Rao, who ran into controversy over writings on sexual assault and minorities.
"Today the Senate votes on the nomination of Neomi Rao to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court for life. She has minimal experience practicing law-no trials, no appeals, only one brief filed in U.S. court-and her writings on race, sexual assault, and other issues are deeply troubling," Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply MORE (D-Ill.) wrote in a tweet ahead of the vote.
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."
But Democrats aren't able to block Trump's nominees on their own after they nixed the 60-vote filibuster for executive nominees and most judicial picks during the Obama administration.
If they wanted to block Rao they would have needed to flip four Republicans, an uphill task in a caucus that has made confirming Trump's circuit court picks a top priority.
Both Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (R-Mo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Key races to watch in Tuesday's primaries The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up MORE (R-Iowa) raised concerns about Rao while her nomination was before the Judiciary Committee, but ultimately supported her.
Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonThe Memo: Trump lags in polls as crises press Overnight Defense: Esper, Milley part of 'command center' for response to protests over George Floyd killing | Several West Point cadets test positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump commencement speech | UN report says Taliban, al Qaeda not breaking ties The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow MORE (R-Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests GOP senator says 'it would be helpful' if Trump changed 'the tone of his message' on protests The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US MORE (R-S.C.) also reportedly had concerns about Rao but voted for her nomination on the Senate floor. Scott has previously help sink two of Trump's nominees during the previous Congress — when Republicans held a narrow 51-49 majority.
Appeals courts, in particular, are a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests MORE (R-Ky.) because the circuit courts hear thousands of cases every year — compared with the Supreme Court, which heard 69 cases during their previous term — and often have the final say for states within their jurisdiction.
Republicans have confirmed Trump's picks for the circuit courts at a record pace, with Rao being the fifth to receive a vote in the past two weeks.
McConnell, speaking before the vote, called Rao “another of the president’s excellent choices to serve as a federal judge.”
“In testimony before our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, she demonstrated a commitment to maintaining the public trust, and upholding the rule of law,” McConnell added.