The lawyer who beat President Obama’s recess appointment power grab is now the Trump administration’s top courtroom attorney, after the Senate on Tuesday confirmed Noel Francisco to be solicitor general.
He’ll now oversee the administration’s legal strategy as it prepares for one of the most momentous Supreme Court terms in memory, with President Trump’s travel ban and landmark religious liberty and voting rights cases already on the docket.
The 50-47 confirmation vote split along party lines, suggesting Democrats’ attempts to obstruct Mr. Trump’s nominees continues despite new pledges of bipartisan cooperation this month.
Mr. Francisco will jump right into a number of heavy legal battles, with the new Supreme Court term opening in just a few weeks and Mr. Trump facing across-the-board legal challenges to his agenda.
Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, said the confirmation will also bring needed relief to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been leading the Justice Department with “a truly skeleton staff.” Mr. Francisco will now be able to help shape courtroom strategy for the department.
“From amnesty cities to DACA to travel bans to transgender bans, the Trump administration faces defining moments before the court. It needs a solicitor general at the helm that supports its policies and priorities,” Mr. Turley said.
Despite voting against him, Democrats didn’t speak on the floor against Mr. Francisco, and after the vote Tuesday they struggled to explain their opposition.
“There’s a long history of philosophy — and I just don’t think he’s right for it,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said there “are more qualified people who should be considered.”
Mr. Francisco won a reputation as a skilled arguer and cagy lawyer, particularly with his challenge to Mr. Obama’s 2012 attempt to expand the president’s recess appointment powers.
The Supreme Court delivered a 9-0 spanking to Mr. Obama in that case, siding with Mr. Francisco and his clients in ruling the then-president tried to steal powers the Constitution granted to Congress.
Mr. Francisco also fought the administration to a draw on the Obamacare contraceptive mandate in the Supreme Court, and won the release of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell after convincing the justices that the corruption charges were bogus.