Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court

Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court
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Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted to confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE's nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughHouse, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Justices appear cautious of expanding gun rights in NY case Thanks to President Trump, major tests loom for Chief Justice Roberts 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. 

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"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 DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban 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 HawleyOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East MORE (R-Mo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Democratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members MORE (R-Iowa) raised concerns about Rao while her nomination was before the Judiciary Committee, but ultimately supported her.

Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Enhancing protections for sensitive information in congressional investigations MORE (R-Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges Senate roundtable showcases importance and needs of women entrepreneurs Donald Trump does not understand manufacturing 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 McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump 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.