- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Democrats boycotted the Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesday on a new slate of federal judges, protesting the GOP’s decision to hold the meeting while the Senate is in recess.

Democrats said it was unprecedented to convene and advance judges while senators are home preparing for the November election.

But Republicans said Democrats were reneging on a deal Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, struck in August when she agreed to two hearings in late October, even with the chance that the Senate was going to go out of session.

“She also specifically agreed not to object to the timing of these hearings,” said Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican. “If somebody on the Democratic side is upset, they need to take it up with Sen. Feinstein. She agreed to all of this.”

Mr. Kennedy led Wednesday’s hearing and Republican Sens. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mike Crapo of Idaho also attended.

Senate Republicans have made approving President Trump’s judicial picks a chief focus of their agenda. They’ve already set a record by confirming 29 circuit court judges, and also cleared two Supreme Court justices and 53 district court picks.

Dozens more already await action in a lame-duck session, and the ones at Wednesday’s hearing could be added to the list.

On the docket were Allison Jones Rushing, who is being considered for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and five district-court nominees — Thomas P. Barber and Wendy Williams Berger for the Middle District of Florida; Corey Landon Maze for the Northern District of Alabama; Rodney Smith for the Southern District of Florida; and T. Kent Wetherell II for the Northern District of Florida.

Sparsely attended nomination hearings aren’t unusual.

When Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch had a hearing in 2006 for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he was questioned by only one member — Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.

Senators on the committee, including those absent Wednesday, will have a chance to submit written questions for the nominees.

Democrats had asked Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and the committee chairman, earlier this week to postpone the hearing.

“The committee has never before held nominations hearings while the Senate is in recess before an election. The handful of nominations hearings that have been held during a recess have been with the minority’s consent, which is not the case here — in fact, we were not even consulted,” their letter read.

Republicans countered that Ms. Feinstein had been consulted well ahead of time. And Mr. Grassley said it would be unfair to the nominees who have already traveled to Washington, D.C., for the hearing.

“The judiciary simply cannot afford further obstruction from your side,” he said.

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