Senators returned to Washington Tuesday and immediately picked up where they left off — processing President Trump’s judicial nominees, over the objections of Democrats.
The Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Paul B. Matey, nominated to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and for four district court picks.
Mr. Matey’s nomination is particularly controversial because it marks another round in the fight over Senate traditions and courtesies and their abuse in the era of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Matey is slated to fill a seat on the appeals court that’s traditionally ascribed to New Jersey. But that state’s senators, both Democrats, object to the president’s pick, and have withheld their “blue slips” to signify their opposition.
“To say that my objections to this judge is just because they’re conservative is just not fair,” Sen. Cory Booker said, arguing he wasn’t properly consulted on Mr. Matey’s nomination. “Nobody has asked me what my objections might be.”
Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, countered that the White House reached out numerous times.
SEE ALSO: Trump nominates Neomi Rao to D.C. Circuit Court to replace Kavanaugh
“It’s clear the White House adequately consulted with the New Jersey senators regarding Mr. Matey’s nomination. The White House first reached out to the New Jersey senators in April 2017,” Mr. Grassley said.
Mr. Grassley repeated his view that blue slips are about making sure consultation happens, and don’t carry veto power in his committee.
Mr. Booker said his objections to Mr. Matey concern his service as vice president and general counsel for University Hospital in Newark, where he worked from 2015 to 2018.
Mr. Matey oversaw the hospital during a time where its grade consistently decreased and while it received numerous complaints about objects being left inside patients after surgeries, the New Jersey Democrat said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, also probed Mr. Matey over his legal work advising former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration was riddled with scandals, most notably “Bridgegate,” where several lanes were shut down on the George Washington Bridge as political retaliation against a Democratic mayor who didn’t support Mr. Christie’s re-election.
“I had no knowledge, involvement or participation in any of those events,” Mr. Matey said.
Mr. Matey worked for Mr. Christie for roughly five years, first as his senior counsel and later as the governor’s deputy chief counsel.
The committee also heard from Jean-Paul Boulee for the Northern District of Georgia, James David Cain Jr. for the Western District of Louisiana, Damon Ray Leichty for the Northern District of Indiana, and J. Nicholas Ranjan for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The Senate currently has more than 40 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation votes. Republicans have said they hope to get them all confirmed during the lame-duck session before the start of the new Congress in January.