Democrats Irked by Latest Judicial Confirmation Hearing

Senate committee moves forward without a blue slip from Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey was not on board with a federal appeals court pick from his state, but the Judiciary Committee moved forward anyway. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing Wednesday for a fourth federal appeals court pick who didn’t get approval from one of his home-state senators, causing more consternation from Democrats that the White House was cutting them out of the nomination process.

This time, Sen. Bob Casey did not give his approval for the confirmation hearing. The Pennsylvania Democrat opposes the nomination of David Porter for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit based in Philadelphia.

Casey, who is not on the committee, said in a news release Wednesday that Porter’s past writings reveal “an ideology that will serve only the wealthy and powerful as opposed to protecting the rights of all Americans.” He did not attend the hearing, but said his bipartisan work to find qualified nominees for the federal bench is “second to none.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, said the White House did not consult in good faith with Casey.

“While the White House counsel left Sen. Casey with the impression that no decision had been made, the Trump administration had actually decided to nominate Mr. Porter almost a year earlier,” Feinstein said at the hearing.

“Mr. Porter’s nomination is a clear example of the White House turning its back on the tradition of working collaboratively and in good faith with United States senators in the judicial nominations process,” she added.

Republicans, who have made judicial nominations a priority this year, brushed back complaints about the committee moving ahead without Casey returning a “blue slip,” part of a committee tradition that gives home-state senators a way to sign off on nominees.

What’s a Senate Blue Slip and Why Is It Losing Power?

GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah repeated Wednesday his view that Democrats are trying to use the process as a de facto veto over President Donald Trump’s judicial picks.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, attended the hearing to introduce Porter as “one of the pre-eminent attorneys in western Pennsylvania.” Porter has handled complex regulatory and constitutional matters at a Pittsburgh law firm for the last 24 years at the state and federal level.

Democrats raised several concerns about Porter’s past views. Among them, he wrote that landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade has a “shaky theoretical foundation,” and co-founded a state group that was formed in part to oppose Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Porter, however, testified Wednesday that he had nothing more to do with that group than a 15-second phone call. He said he is aware his name appears on a letter on the website, and he learned about that in 2014. But he testified he did not agree to or authorize having his name on that letter.

The committee has not yet scheduled a vote on Porter’s nomination.

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