Senate

Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick

President Trump announced Friday that he intends to nominate Patrick Bumatay to serve on the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, reviving a fight over the controversial court.

The decision paves the way for a battle with Senate Democrats including home-state Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who had previously urged the White House against nominating Bumatay to the San Francisco-based appeals court.

{mosads}Harris, in a statement, called Bumatay a “highly flawed nominee,” who was supported by neither her nor Feinstein.

“In once again nominating Mr. Bumatay to the Ninth Circuit, it is clear the White House is doing so to advance a political agenda and remake the federal judiciary. Make no mistake, Senator Dianne Feinstein and I identified qualified, consensus Ninth Circuit nominees we could have supported,” Harris said.

She added that Bumatay “has a troubling prosecutorial record, lacks the requisite experience, and has drawn criticism from members of California’s legal community, across party lines.”

A Democratic aide noted that Feinstein opposed his initial nomination to the appeals court last year.

“The White House chose to renominate him for the Ninth Circuit without support from either California Senator and despite the fact both senators identified potential nominees they would agree to that the White House also supported,” the aide added.

Bumatay was first nominated to the 9th Circuit in 2018, but the Senate failed to act on his nomination by the end of the year and kicked it back to the White House.

The White House then nominated Bumatay to a district court seat in February instead of renominating him for the appeals court. But when Judge Carlos Bea, a George W. Bush appointee, announced that he would take senior status, conservative activists publicly urged the White House to nominate Bumatay for the seat.

Bumatay worked as a staffer for former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), known for his conservative views on immigration and opposition to recent criminal justice legislation. If Bumatay is confirmed he would be the first Filipino American judge to serve on a federal appeals court. 

Sessions offered his support for Bumatay’s nomination on Friday, saying he would “make a terrific judge.”

Republican-aligned outside groups also immediately praised Bumatay’s nomination.

“With his nomination of Patrick Bumatay to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, President Trump has nominated another exceptional legal mind to the bench. … I look forward to his swift confirmation,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of Judicial Crisis Network.

Mike Davis, the president of the Article III project that pushes for Trump’s judicial picks to be confirmed, praised Trump for deciding to “run over” objections from Feinstein and Harris. 

“There is no excuse for their disgraceful actions,” he added in a tweet.

But the nomination will mark the latest turn in the Senate’s years-long fight over the “blue slip,” a sheet of paper that indicates whether or not a home-state senator supports a nomination.

The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower court nominee from being confirmed by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee. How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

Republicans announced in November 2017 that they would start moving appeals court nominees even if they didn’t get blue slips from one of their home-state senators. In February, they confirmed the first appeals court nominee who lacked blue slips from both home-state senators. 

Republicans have put a priority on confirming Trump’s nominees, including setting a record for the pace of confirmations on appeals court picks. If the Senate GOP caucus largely unites behind Bumatay, Democrats won’t be able to block his confirmation.

But Harris indicated on Friday that she will try to sway Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from bringing up Bumatay’s nomination.

“I strongly oppose Mr. Bumatay’s nomination,” she said, “and would object to Chairman Graham moving forward with his nomination.”

Tags Blue slip Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Donald Trump judicial appointment controversies Jeff Sessions Kamala Harris Lindsey Graham Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

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