A Trump appeals court nominee who faces criticism from Democrats over civil rights got one step closer to likely confirmation, as a Senate committee advanced his nomination along party lines.
Democrats seized on Andrew Brasher‘s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, pointing to his work on cases involving voting rights and LGBT rights in his role as Alabama’s solicitor general as evidence of bias.
Republicans, however, said nominees shouldn’t be criticized for positions they defended for their client. That has been a consistent argument in confirmation hearings for nominees who served as private attorneys, prosecutors or solicitors general.
The Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Thursday came as President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are coming off their most successful year yet of filling the federal courts with conservative judges. So far, Trump has appointed 183 federal district and appeals court judges to lifetime positions, and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
In his solicitor general role, Brasher signed Alabama’s amicus brief to support a conservative position in the landmark Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. That brief argued congressional renewal of that law was not constitutional. The court ultimately ruled 5-4 that a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unlawful.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top ranking Democrat on the committee, highlighted that brief and others as a reason she wouldn’t support his nomination.
The NAACP is among the groups that don’t support Brasher. In a Jan. 14 letter, the group representing the interests of black Americans said, “Brasher is an extreme ideologue and has devoted much of his career to attempting to restrict voting rights and other critical civil and human rights.”
Brasher, 38, would be among the youngest appeals court judges in the country, if confirmed. Trump has pushed for younger nominees to federal courts to extend their influence, but even his appeals court appointees on average are just under 50.
It’s not clear when the full Republican-led Senate will take up Brasher’s nomination with Trump’s impeachment trial getting under way next week, but McConnell has been moving swiftly to clear judicial nominees.
Brasher received a unanimous “Well Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association to serve on the circuit court that includes Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
In addition to Brasher, the committee advanced several district court nominees who now await votes by the full Senate, and held over several others.
The committee didn’t advance three nominees from the Central District of California, where one-third of the seats are vacant and each judge handles nearly double the national average of cases.
In October, Chief Judge Virginia Phillips wrote to committee members asking them to “act on those nominations without delay.” The Senate, thus far, hasn’t confirmed any district court nominee to a California seat.
They also held over a nominee for the federal district court in Arizona, John Hinderaker.
A Trump administration official was also among the advanced nominees. Department of Agriculture General Counsel Stephen A. Vaden, who is nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of International trade, was also approved by the panel.
The other nominees who got the committee’s stamp of approval were: