Senate panel clears controversial Trump court pick

Senate panel clears controversial Trump court pick
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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a controversial appeals court nominee after weeks of being in limbo.

Senators voted 12-10 along party lines to send Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to the full Senate.

The committee’s vote had been in limbo for weeks as Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) mulled whether to support him.

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But the Louisiana Republican said on Thursday that he would support Menashi, whose writings he has studied in recent days.

“I spent a lot of time on this and I’m going to vote for his nomination because I think his reasons are carefully, carefully articulated,” Kennedy said ahead of the vote.

Menashi sparked bipartisan frustration during his hearing before the committee in September when he declined to answer questions, including those about his work in the Trump White House.

“I didn’t like the fact that the nominee wouldn’t straight up answer questions. ... I didn’t like it all,” Kennedy acknowledged on Thursday.

Menashi has also garnered widespread opposition from Democrats and their outside group allies over his writings on the Muslim community and his work in the Trump administration.

Protesters confronted Republican senators over the vote as they left Thursday’s vote.

No Democrats on the panel supported to him, and his two home-state senators, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' Biden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE (D-N.Y.), oppose his nomination.

But Democrats are unable to block Menashi’s nomination on their own. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning Menashi would need to lose support from four GOP senators in order for his nomination to fail.

So far only one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post MORE (Maine), has said she will oppose him.

"I oppose the nomination of Steven Menashi to be a United States Circuit Court Judge for the Second Circuit," Collins said in a statement. "Mr. Menashi's past writings, particularly about women, LGBTQ advocates, and diversity, raise questions about whether he has the appropriate judicial temperament."