2017 US SENATE Confirmation Votes

Bob Casey and Pat Toomey

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A note on using this guide…

 

I went into this project after having completed an assessment of 2017 votes in the House of Representatives.  My original plan was for this document to cover much the same ground in an identical format.  My rationale for creating these documents was that so little of the actual business of government is covered in the news, and I wanted a single place where one could check on the voting record of our members of Congress.  That assessment, however, was at least partially faulty.  It is true that the vast majority of House votes, some of great significance, are not covered by the media.  The legislative business of the Senate, though, is indeed well tracked by most media outlets.  Add to this the fact that neither Senator makes a practice of deviating from his party’s position. I thus came to the conclusion that creating a tracking document for our Senators’ votes on bills is unnecessary.

What is not always well-documented by the news outlets is our Senators’ votes on confirmations.  Supreme Court confirmations, like that of Neil Gorsuch, usually get loads of attention, but lower courts, cabinet appointees, and lesser yet still important bureaucratic officers rarely make the news.  Thus this document focuses on how each Senator voted on Trump Administration nominees.
  
This guide does not contain every confirmation vote taken by the Senate.  Votes on qualified people and confirmations that were not particularly contentious have been purposely excluded. There is an emphasis on cases where our two Senators held different positions. This year-end report compiles all of the nominations recapped in the 2017 Member of Congress Reports, as well as a few additional confirmations that, with the perspective of hindsight, merit inclusion.

I hope this helps inform your letter writing, canvassing, Member of Congress calls, and any other resistance activities in preparation for the 2018 election!  If you have any questions about this content, please do not hesitate to contact me.  And don’t forget to keep reading the weekly MoCTrack reports to keep up-to-date on new legislation and votes as we head into 2018.

 

-Kierstyn P. Zolfo

KierstynPZ@gmail.com
MoCTrack Report editor and contributor

 

If you want to read more about any of these confirmations, just click on the link.  It will bring you to the detailed description of what made each confirmation process significant.  You can then navigate back to this table by clicking on the “back to table” link at the end of each description.

 

 

Cabinet Nominations

Link

Person

Position

Date

Vote

Casey

Toomey

S54

Elisabeth DeVos

Secretary of Education

02-07-17

51-50

NO

YES

S59

Jeff Sessions

Attorney General of the United States

02-08-17

52-47

NO

YES

S59

Tom Price

Secretary of Health and Human Services

02-10-17

52-47

NO

YES

S63

Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

02-13-17

53-47

NO

YES

S68

Mick Mulvaney

Director of the Office of Management and Budget

02-16-17

51-49

NO

YES

S305

Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary of Homeland Security

12-05-17

62-37

NO

YES



 

Judicial Nominations

Link

Person

Position

Date

Vote

Casey

Toomey

S111

Neil M. Gorsuch

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

04-07-17

54-45

NO

YES

S164

John Kenneth Bush

United States Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit

07-20-17

51-47

NO

YES

S255

Amy Coney Barrett

United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit

10-31-17

53-43

NO

YES

S261

Stephanos Bibas

United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit

11-02-17

53-43

NO

YES

S283

Gregory G. Katsas

United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit

11-28-17

50-48

NO

YES

S313

Leonard Steven Grasz

United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit

12-12-17

50-48

NO

YES

 

 

Bureaucratic Nominations

Link

Person

Position

Date

Vote

Casey

Toomey

S181

Christopher Wray

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

08-01-17

92-5

YES

YES

S184

Marvin Kaplan

Member of the National Labor Relations Board

08-02-17

50-48

NO

YES

S203

William J. Emanuel

Member of the National Labor Relations Board

09-25-17

49-47

NO

YES

S209

Ajit Pai

Member of the Federal Communications Commission

10-02-17

52-41

NO

Did not vote

S215

Lee Francis Cissna

Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

10-05-17

54-43

NO

YES

S264

Steven Andrew Engel

Assistant Attorney General

11-07-17

51-47

NO

YES

S268

William L. Wehrum

Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

11-09-17

49-47

NO

YES

S272

Steven Gill Bradbury

General Counsel of the Department of Transportation

11-14-17

50-47

NO

YES

S275

David G. Zatezalo

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health

11-15-17

52-46

NO

YES

 

Executive Nominations - Cabinet Level

On the Nomination PN1095: Kirstjen Nielsen, of Virginia, to be Secretary of Homeland Security

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s305

Kirstjen Nielsen is the Trump Administration pick to replace General John Kelly (who left the DHS position to become Trump’s Chief of Staff) as Secretary of Homeland Security. CNN reports, “Nielsen was Kelly's chief of staff at DHS and went with him to the White House before Trump nominated her.”  While Ms. Nielsen has  experience in the field, her reputation is not entirely clean.  The Washington Post indicated “Last month, a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Nielsen after she used a private consultant who represents clients with millions of dollars in DHS contracts to help her navigate the confirmation process.”   The New York Times reported that a number of former Homeland Security officials including Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, who both served as DHS Secretary, endorsed Ms. Nielsen. But after the confirmation process Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) observed, “Throughout her confirmation process, Ms. Nielsen failed to demonstrate that she would provide the steady experienced leadership — free from political interference from the White House — that the department needs.” In a vote taken on 12/05/17, Ms. Nielsen’s nomination was confirmed 62-37. Casey voted NO and Toomey votes YES. Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN54: Mick Mulvaney, of South Carolina, to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s68

Prior to his nomination to the position of Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Mulvaney was a member of the House of Representative.  He was elected to Congress as part of the Republican wave in 2010.  Amongst the controversial positions held by Mr. Mulvaney, which led to a divisive confirmation process, is the belief that government should have no role in funding any scientific research. Mother Jones reported on Mr. Mulvaney’s belief that the government shouldn’t be funding research on Zika or other diseases. This position was then compounded by the fact that he did not serve in either the Ways and Means or Budget committees in the House, the two areas where one might gain national level budgeting experience. Despite these issues, the confirmation passed in a 51-49 vote on 02/16/17.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joined the Democrats in voting against Mr. Mulvaney.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES. Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN26: Steven T. Mnuchin, of California, to be Secretary of the Treasury

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s63

Mr. Mnuchin was a former Goldman Sachs banker, a hedge fund manager and a Hollywood movie producer before being tapped by the Trump administration to head the Department of the Treasury.  During the nomination process, the New York Times reported on the grilling he received from several Senators for failing to reveal information about $100 million in assets on his mandatory disclosure forms.  Further, Reuters reported on a situation where Mr. Mnuchin was found to have assets in an offshore tax haven, while he was telling the Senate, during the nomination process, that he would work to eliminate such overseas tax shelters.The Senate voted on 02/13/17 to confirm Mr. Mnuchin, with a 53-47 result. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined with the Republicans.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

On the Nomination PN33: Thomas Price, of Georgia, to be Secretary of Health and Human Services

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s61

Prior to his nomination, Mr. Price was a Congressman from Georgia and vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act.  As Head of Health and Human Services, he would have administrative control of the very program he was wanted to be eliminated. Prior to his government service, Price was an orthopaedic surgeon. During his confirmation process it was revealed that he had traded over $300,000 in stocks related to health care, when he was working on legislation that affected the value of those stock.  As Vox explained in their ably reported piece on this issue, “ethics experts advise that members of Congress refrain from trading individual stocks and stick to mutual funds while they’re in office.”  Despite this swampiness, Mr. Price was confirmed on 02/10/17 in a 52-47 vote.  This was a strict party line vote, so Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES. Secretary Price has since resigned, after a scandal related to Price abusing his position to demand private flights at the taxpayer expense.  Back to Table

On the Nomination PN30: Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, to be Attorney General

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s59

Long-serving Senator Jeff Sessions was nominated by the Trump Administration to the highest law enforcement position in the land.  Mr. Sessions had previously been nominated to a federal judicial position in 1986, one that he did not then receive.  During the nomination process this time, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) attempted to read a letter from Coretta Scott King from 1986, objecting to Mr. Sessions for his poor record protecting civil rights.  This caused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cut off Senator Warren (giving rise to the ‘nevertheless, she persisted’ meme).  In their review of Sessions’ nomination process the New York Times observed that “a committee hearing on his nomination included searing indictments from black Democratic lawmakers like Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon, and Senator Cory Booker of New jersey, who broke with Senate tradition to testify against a peer.”  Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General on 02/08/17 in a 52-47 vote.  Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined the Republicans, and Sessions himself simply voted “Present.”  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN37: Elisabeth Prince DeVos, of Michigan, to be Secretary of Education

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s54

Ms. DeVos had never held a position in the government prior to this nomination, but she served as a former chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group, and the Michigan’s State Republican Party.  Forbes reported that DeVoss indicated it was possible that her family had donated more the $200 million to the Republican Party.  Her confirmation process was exceedingly rocky, with questioning from Sen. Al Franken making it clear that Ms. DeVos was not familiar with some of the most basic philosophies of education policy.  The confirmation vote was taken on 02/07/17, and she was confirmed 51-50.  Vice President Pence had to case the tie breaking vote after Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) broke with their party to vote against her.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table



Executive Nominations - Lower Level

On the Nomination PN919: David G. Zatezalo, of West Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health (MSHA)

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s275

As is becoming commonplace in this Administration, President Trump nominated a former coal executive to head up the department that oversees mine inspections and investigates mine worker injuries and deaths.   David G. Zatezalo worked forty years in the coal industry, before retiring from his position of President and CEO of Rhino Resources, Inc. in 2014. When this nomination was announced, Huffington Post reported that under Zatezalo’s leadership, Rhino Resources “...butted heads repeatedly with MSHA during the Obama administration. After several documented safety lapses, the agency issued what’s known as a ‘pattern of violations’ warning to one of Rhino’s mines, ordering the company to get its act together or face more penalties. Not long after, a miner was killed at the mine when part of a wall collapsed, leading to $44,500 in fines. MSHA also took the rare step of issuing an injunction against another Rhino mine when it found out the company’s employees were tipping off miners underground ahead of inspections, in hopes of avoiding penalties.” Because of these concerns, Zatezalo’s own Senator, Joe Manchin (D-WV) would not support his nomination, saying that “...after reviewing his qualifications and record of safety during his time in the coal industry, I am not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.” Despite this notable objection from America’s coal-friendliest Senator, Mr. Zatezalo was confirmed in a 52-46 straight party line vote on 11/15/17.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN558: Steven Gill Bradbury, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the Department of Transportation

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s272

In another commonplace pattern, the Trump Administration has nominated yet another attorney tied to the Bush-era torture memos to a major position. Steven Gill Bradbury actually authored several memos that defended the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques during his tenure at the Office of Legal Counsel.  At his Senate confirmation hearings, the New York Times reports that Mr. Bradbury spoke of  his previous work, observing, “...every opinion I gave for O.L.C. represented my best judgment of what the laws in effect at that time required.  I certainly recognize and respect that some of the questions we addressed during my tenure in office raised difficult issues about which reasonable people could disagree.”  At the same hearings, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) noted “You lacked the judgment to stand up and say what is morally right when pressured by the President of the United States, and I’m afraid you would do so again… I cannot oppose this nomination strongly enough.”  Mr. Bradbury’s nomination was confirmed in a 50-47 vote on 11/14/17.  All of the Democrats and Independents voted against the nominee, and they were joined by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Rand Paul (R-KY).  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN58: Steven Andrew Engel, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Attorney General

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s264

Steven Engel is a former George W. Bush Administration Department of Justice employee, having worked as a deputy assistant attorney general.  His presence in that department during that era has provoked controversy during the confirmation process, as it has been revealed that he provided legal counsel and review of the so-called “torture memos” that justified the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to express their concern about Mr. Engel’s participation.  The letter says, in part:

In response to questions from Senators during the confirmation process, Mr. Engel acknowledged having reviewed and provided comments on a 2007 memo which found that six of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”—including sleep deprivation by means of shackling diapered detainees in a standing position for days at a time—complied with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. He declined to answer any substantive follow-up questions on the memo, on grounds that “my role…was not to agree or disagree with [the memo’s] conclusions, but to provide comment” and that Congress had recently passed further restrictions on coercive interrogations.

 

This evasion is not acceptable. Before voting on Mr. Engel’s nomination, the Judiciary Committee should request from the Department of Justice his comments and correspondence on the 2007 memo, as well as any other documents that he produced during his previous tenure at OLC relating to the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program.

Despite this involvement with one of the more damning situations the Justice Department has found itself embroiled in, Mr. Engle’s nomination was confirmed in a 51-47 vote on 11/07/17.  This was not a straight party line vote.  As might be expected for issues pertaining to torture, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted against the nominee.  Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for him.  Senator Casey voted NO and Senator Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN994: William L. Wehrum, of Delaware, to be an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s268

William Wehrum has been nominated to head up the EPA’s air program.  This is his second attempt at a nomination for this same position.  President George W. Bush put him up for this office in 2006, but then withdrew the nomination after it became clear he would not get the votes necessary to be confirmed.  At the time, then-Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) observed “his disdain for the Clean Air Act is alarming.”  The National Resource Defense Council describes Mr. Wehrum as “a corporate attorney who represents a wide variety of coal, oil, gas and chemical companies and trade associations that oppose EPA clean air rules. Wehrum served for six years in the Bush administration as the acting head of EPA’s air office for two years and chief counselor to Jeff Holmstead, the head of that office, for four years. In these EPA capacities, Wehrum was substantially involved in decisions that broke the law repeatedly and egregiously.”  During his confirmation hearing, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) asked whether Mr. Wehrum believed that humans were the “main driver of climate change,” and the nominee responded “I believe that’s an open question.”  Despite all this, Mr. Wehrum was confirmed in a 49-47 vote on 11/09/17.  Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican to vote against Mr. Wehrum.  Senator Casey voted NO and Senator Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN89: Ajit Varadaraj Pai, of Kansas, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission for a term of five years from July 1, 2016

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s209

Ajit Pai is a highly controversial pick for the FCC Chairman. The short version of why is that he basically wants to scrap net neutrality, the concept that everyone gets the same access to the web and internet service providers can’t throttle service or get paid to give companies faster or better access. Instead of getting deep into it, I’ll refer you to this John Oliver clip where he explains why this issue is critical to the just about every aspect of our lives, even if we don’t realize it. The Senate voted 52-41 on 10/02/17 to confirm Mr. Pai in his position.  Casey voted NO and Toomey DID NOT VOTE.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN352: Lee Francis Cissna, of Maryland, to be Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s215

Lee Francis Cissna is a former staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley, having been detailed to his staff by Homeland Security.  While there is not much about him in the news, ProPublica assessed the letters he provided to the Obama Administration, and observed that this soon-to-be-Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services holds some policy positions that are controversial. They note that “while there, he drafted dozens of letters under the senator’s name to Homeland Security officials, helping Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to intensify his oversight of immigration and creating a blueprint for dismantling President Obama’s initiatives.” Among the policies he criticized are DACA, an emergency program for Central American children to reunite with parents in the United States, and a program allowing undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime to stay in the U.S. even if there are no visa slots available. On 10/05/17 the Senate voted 54-43 to confirm Mr. Cissna in his position.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN725: William J. Emanuel, of California, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2021

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s203

This position is incredibly important and this man’s confirmation may well prove to be a massive shift in the way the Administration deals with labor issues, and not is a good way. The National Labor Relations Board has five appointed members who serve five year terms. Barring any untimely resignations, President Trump is going to get to appoint a total of three seats. He has already gotten one very contentious nominee through, and this is his second. If Mr. Emanuel is confirmed, this will be the first time there will be Republican control of the NLRB since 2008.

 

The NLRB makes important decision that affect many people’s lives, even if we are unaware of that fact. That National Review outlined this year’s NLRB agenda in and 08/03/17 article, noting that they would consider “...standards for determining whether joint employer relationships exist, the standards for evaluating whether handbooks and work rules unlawfully interfere with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), the Board’s standards for determining what are appropriate units for collective bargaining including a review of the so-called “micro-units” approved by the Obama Board, the status graduate students and research assistants as employees under the NLRA with the right to collective bargaining, and a host of other decisions from the past eight years that more expansively interpreted the NLRA.” You can read that bit about other decisions of the last eight years as yet another area where President Trump’s appointees are undoing the progressive actions of President Obama’s Administration.

 

And this nominee is not simply objectionable because he is a Trump pick. Read what Mother Jones had to say about William J. Emanuel in a 07/19/17 piece. “Emanuel is a shareholder and longtime lawyer at Littler, the world’s largest management-side employment law firm. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called it is one of the nation’s “most ruthless” union-busters. Emanuel’s clients include Uber and other companies accused of violating workers’ rights, according to his ethics disclosure form.... At Emanuel's nomination hearing last week, Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Warren were particularly concerned by Emanuel’s record of defending the mandatory arbitration agreements that Carlson and many others have signed. Pressed by Franken, Emanuel declined to criticize arbitration agreements that prevent women who are sexually harassed from suing their employers in court.”

 

On 09/25/17 the Senate voted to confirm Mr. Emanuel in a 49-47 vote. This vote was strict party line (with four members not voting), so Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

Nomination of Christopher Wray to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s181

Christopher Wray is an interesting FBI Director nominee.  On one hand, he represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the "Bridgegate" law entanglements.  On the other hand, the Lawfare blog (helmed by Former FBI Director Comey's close friend Ben Wittes) says of Wray the he has "a serious law enforcement background, his being a far better choice than nearly all of the alternatives Trump was kicking around, and his having acquitted himself admirably in his confirmation hearing and sent appropriately reassuring messages."  With that in mind, it is surprising that this nomination went so smoothly, with the Senate confirming Mr. Wray in a 92-5 vote on 08/01/17.  The 5 NOs came from Democrats (Markey and Warren of MA, Wyden and Merkley of OR, and Gillibrand of NY).  Casey voted YES and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN681: Marvin Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2020

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s184

Marvin Kaplan is a controversial nominee to the NLRB.  While he had a few years experience as an attorney at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, before that he was a Republican staffer.  At his confirmation hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) noted that he confused basic labor issues and decisions. The National Law Review highlights the importance of these NLRB positions, because the Board is "likely to consider a number of significant legal issues once the final vacancy is filled, including the NLRB’s standards for determining whether joint employer relationships exist, the standards for evaluating whether handbooks and work rules unlawfully interfere with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), the Board’s standards for determining what are appropriate units for collective bargaining including a review of the so-called “micro-units” approved by the Obama Board, the status graduate students and research assistants as employees under the NLRA with the right to collective bargaining, and a host of other decisions from the past eight years that more expansively interpreted the NLRA."  The nomination of Marvin Kaplan was confirmed 50-48 in a party line vote on 08/02/17.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table



Judicial Nominees

On the Nomination PN55: Neil M. Gorsuch, of Colorado, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s111

Much press has been given to the judicial philosophy of Neil Gorsuch, who sat upon the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before his nomination to the Supreme Court.  Time.com has a concise review of his positions, and they note “Gorsuch's opinions on religious liberty, where he sided with the challengers to the so-called Obamacare contraceptive mandate, and on the separation of powers, where he said too much deference was given by the courts to administrative agencies, are key to his appeal to Trump and Republicans.”
 

There were four votes of significance that took place surrounding the confirmation process of Mr. Gorsuch:

  1. Under the traditional rules of the Senate a cloture vote was called.  For most issues, it requires 60 votes to achieve cloture (which means ending debate, and moving to an actual vote on a issue).  This vote took place on 04/06/17, and with a  55-45 result, the vote failed.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.
  2. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a vote to change the cloture rules on Supreme Court nominations, the so-called “nuclear option.”  Since this is merely a rule change, it only needed a majority of the vote to pass. Because of some oddities of wording, a NO vote supports the nuclear option, and a YES vote opposes it. This vote also occured on 04/06/17, and failed (meaning the nuclear option was accepted) in 48-52 vote.  Casey voted YES and Toomey voted NO.
  3. Under the new rules, with only a majority needed, a new cloture vote was called. On 04/06/17 the vote passed with a 55-45 tally. Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.
  4. Cloture having been achieved and rules have been changed, the Senate voted on the actual confirmation of Judge Gorsuch on 04/07/17. He was confirmed with a 54-45 vote.Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.

Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN878: Leonard Steven Grasz, of Nebraska, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s313

Yet another Trump Administration nominee has been confirmed to the federal bench, despite vigorous opposition and a seriously compromised legal reputation.  CBS News reported on Mr. Grasz’s background, observing that he was the state of Nebraska’s chief deputy attorney general and also served as general counsel to the Nebraska Republican Party. That outlet also noted, “in one opinion he helped craft, he said the legacy of the landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade was its ‘moral bankruptcy.’ Another opinion he helped write warned of the ‘grave danger’ of the Nebraska Supreme Court recognizing same-sex marriages from other states, and he advised that legislation refusing to recognize same-sex marriages could be defended against a constitutional challenge.”   Even more disturbing, Mr. Grasz received a unanimous rating of “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Huffington Post explains, “It is extremely rare for the Senate to confirm a judge with such an abysmal rating from the national legal organization. The ABA has reviewed more than 1,700 federal judicial nominees since 1989, and only three, including Grasz, have been deemed unanimously unqualified. The other two, both nominees of President George W. Bush, were withdrawn and replaced with other nominees after the ABA’s assessment came in.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse posted an excerpt of his questioning of Mr. Grasz during the hearing process that  provides ample evidence of why the Democrats voted against this Trump judicial nominee.  The vote took place on 12/12/17, and the nomination was confirmed in a 50-48 vote.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN999: Gregory G. Katsas, of Virginia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s283

This is yet another controversial judicial nominee from the Trump administration.  Gregory Katsas is the current Deputy White House Counsel, which means he provides legal advice to the president and his administration. Mr. Katsas has faced vigorous opposition from the LGBTQ community because of a list of discriminatory situations he has participated in.  Just within the last year, Mr. Katsas provided legal advice to the President regarding the transgender military ban and the change to reverse the Obama-era protections under Title IX related to public school bathroom usage of  transgender children.  Prior to this, Katsas defended DOMA, spoke openly against the Obergefell Supreme Court decision providing for marriage equality, and wrote an amicus brief opposing the Colorado anti-discrimination law in the upcoming Supreme Court case related to the baker who would not make a cake for a gay marriage reception.  Lambda Legal, and organization that defends the rights of LGBTQ individuals, composed a letter to the Senate Judiciary committee that states, in part:

While the above examples focus on the threat that Mr. Katsas poses to the LGBT community, we

share the concerns expressed by others about his approach to civil rights generally. Mr. Katsas’s record demonstrates that his appointment to the bench would cause grave harm to the LGBT community, as well as many other communities who rely on the federal judiciary to administer fair and impartial justice. Quite simply, Gregory Katsas is not the kind of judge that this country wants, needs or deserves. We urge you to reject his nomination.

Despite the biases this nominee has clearly demonstrated, he was confirmed in a 50-48 vote on 11/28/17. This was not strictly a party line vote - Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for Mr. Katsas, while Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) voted against.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN679: Stephanos Bibas, of Pennsylvania, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s261

Stephanos Bibas is one of President Trump’s many nominees to fill the multiple vacancies in the federal court system.  This specific open seat is in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the bench just under the Supreme Court that oversees Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.  Mr. Bibas was a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a member of the conservative Federalist Society.   While Mr. Bibas is certainly qualified for this nomination, the Alliance for Justice relates a number of concerns that they have about his judicial philosophy, noting “in his academic writings, Bibas also has taken troubling positions on mass incarceration, people addicted to drugs, and certain core constitutional protections. For example, Bibas has minimized racial disparities in the criminal justice system and stated that drug addiction was not a disease but rather something that people could choose to overcome. Moreover, Bibas has questioned the propriety of the Miranda doctrine and argued against robust habeas corpus protections.” They also detail a troubling case from when he was federal prosecutor, when he made the decision to prosecute a cashier for allegedly stealing $7.00 - the accused was acquitted, and  Mr. Bibas was found to have withheld evidence that should have been turned over to the defense long before until the very morning of the trial.  All of this builds a troubling picture of the judge who now sits on our own circuit’s Court of Appeals.  Mr. Bibas was confirmed in a 53-43 vote on 11/02/17. Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN369: Amy Coney Barrett, of Indiana, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s255

Amy Coney Barrett is another one of President’s Trump’s judicial nominees, this time for a seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of appeals, which oversees Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Ms. Barrett is a law professor from University of Notre Dame, a member of the Federalist Society, and was one of the 21 judges that then-candidate Trump had published in a list of those he would consider for the Supreme Court vacancy.  Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said of the nominee, “Professor Barrett’s past statements and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. And more broadly, her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint.” More disturbing information about this pick came from a September New York Times article about the judge’s peculiar religious affiliation. She belongs to a particular Christian group called ‘People of Praise,’ an issue that never came up in her Senate confirmation hearings.  The article explains:

Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another and are assigned and are held accountable to a personal advisor, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women.  The group teaches that husbands are heads of their wives and should take authority over the family… Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions… Legal scholars said that such loyalty oaths could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality. The scholars said in interviews that while there certainly was no religious test for office, it would have been relevant for the senators to examine what it means for a judicial nominee to make an oath to a group that could wield significant authority over its members’ lives.”

Despite this, Ms. Barrett was confirmed on 10/31/17 in a 53-43 vote.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.  Back to Table

 

On the Nomination PN370: John Kenneth Bush, of Kentucky, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/s164

John Kenneth Bush was nominated to the seat on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a deeply conservative and controversial nominee.  Among the things that have caused progressives distress is the time he wrote that slavery and abortion are the “two greatest tragedies in our country."  Mark Joseph Stern at Slate also notes that Bush has "a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments during his years as an anonymous blogger."  In his legal career, he wrote an amicus brief in support of keeping women out of a military academy.  In the vote held in the Senate on 07/20/17, Judge Bush was confirmed, 51-47.  Casey voted NO and Toomey voted YES.    Back to Table