Court Battles

Senate panel advances appeals court nominee despite objections from home state Republicans

The U.S. Senate is seen from the East Front Plaza on Thursday, October 7, 2021.
Greg Nash

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced one of President Biden’s federal appeals court nominees over the objections of Republicans who blasted the White House for disregarding the approval of the seat’s home-state senators.

Andre Mathis, a Memphis attorney who is being considered for a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, was approved in a 12-10 committee vote as Republican senators argued that the Biden administration did not offer Tennessee’s two GOP senators the courtesy of fully consulting with them on the pick.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has opposed Mathis, arguing that he’s unqualified and pointing to his “rap sheet” of old traffic citations.

“When the home-state senators are not consulted, we end up with an unqualified candidate,” Blackburn said Thursday.

“I do have concerns about his ability to do the job of a federal appellate judge,” she added.

Thursday’s vote made Mathis the first of Biden’s appellate nominees to advance out of committee without the approval of the home-state senators. One Republican, Sen. John Kennedy (La.), joined Democrats in voting to advance Mathis.

Judiciary Democrats dismissed the criticisms against Mathis as unfounded and unfair.

“Let’s be clear, Mr. Mathis is not a career criminal or a violent felon as the question implied,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said Thursday. “He has never been arrested or convicted of a crime. The underlying issue being commented on was traffic violations, traffic violations dating over a decade ago. Whether it was unintentional or intentional, questions and tones like what I heard during his hearing are demeaning, offensive and just plain wrong.”

“It’s not lost on me that nominees of color have been treated differently in our hearings,” Padilla said.

Democrats also pointed to the Senate GOP’s decision during the Trump administration to do away with the blue slip process for appellate nominees, which gave home-state senators the power to block those picks in committee.

“If we had blue slips, that would not be a problem,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “We are living today with the consequences of getting rid of the blue slip for circuit court nominees.”

Tags Alex Padilla Andre Mathis Biden nominee Blue slips Joe Biden John Kennedy Marsha Blackburn Senate Judiciary Committee Sheldon Whitehouse Tennessee

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