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 TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE's nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSenate Democrats' campaign arm announces seven-figure investment to boost Graham challenger Gideon leads Collins by 12 points in Maine Senate race: poll Conservatives see glaring omission on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist 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 DurbinMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Top GOP senator calls for Biden to release list of possible Supreme Court picks 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 HawleyWhat Facebook's planned change to its terms of service means for the Section 230 debate Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal TikTok, Oracle seek Trump's approval as clock ticks down MORE (R-Mo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenators offer disaster tax relief bill Conservatives see glaring omission on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist Senate Republicans scramble to contain fallout from Woodward bombshell MORE (R-Iowa) raised concerns about Rao while her nomination was before the Judiciary Committee, but ultimately supported her.

Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonLoeffler calls for hearing in wake of Netflix's 'Cuties' Health care in the crosshairs with new Trump Supreme Court list Cruz says he wouldn't accept Supreme Court nomination MORE (R-Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottAuthor Ryan Girdusky: RNC worked best when highlighting 'regular people' as opposed to 'standard Republicans' Now is the time to renew our focus on students and their futures GOP lobbyists pleasantly surprised by Republican convention 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 McConnellMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled McConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security Warren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt 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.