Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted to confirm President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE's nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform Feehery: A Republican Congress is needed to fight left's slide to autocracy 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 DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats face critical 72 hours Bipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Manchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill 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 HawleyThune endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race State watchdog to launch review of Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal Juan Williams: Trump's toxicity fuels fear of violence MORE (R-Mo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE (R-Iowa) raised concerns about Rao while her nomination was before the Judiciary Committee, but ultimately supported her.
Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonIs the Navy totally at sea? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats MORE (R-Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid 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 McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats 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.