Conservatives warned the White House on Wednesday against striking a deal with California’s two Democratic senators to water down President Trump’s judicial picks for the West Coast’s federal appeals court.
Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican close to Mr. Trump, said he will call and try to scuttle the negotiations, reported by The Wall Street Journal, that would have the White House pick one conservative, one consensus nominee and one liberal nominee for three openings on the already liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Why do we need to do a deal? This is totally within our purview. We can do this with 51 votes, and we’ve shown that we can do that. We stuck together as a Republican caucus in the Senate and delivered results for the president. And he has sent up really good candidates,” Mr. Perdue told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly railed against the liberal bent of the 9th Circuit, making talk of a deal all the more stunning to the president’s allies, who say he would be squandering a chance to dramatically reshape the court.
The court has six vacancies to be filled. Mr. Trump had five nominees pending at the end of last year, but they all got sent back at the end of the last Congress. He has since renominated two of them, but the other three have faced opposition from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, California Democrats.
According to multiple reports, the senators are trying to reach an agreement with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to shape the president’s list.
Conservatives see the 85 federal court judges confirmed during the president’s first two years as Mr. Trump’s best accomplishment.
They say capitulating to either California Democratic senator is unnecessary because the GOP has the majority on both the Judiciary Committee and the chamber to confirm the president’s picks without Democratic votes.
Additionally, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed Wednesday titled “A Bad Judges Deal” highlighting opposition to the rumored agreement, saying any concession by Mr. Trump would be “seen as political weakness.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged deal.
Ashley Schapitl, a spokesperson for Ms. Feinstein, disputed reports of the deal.
“The Wall Street Journal editorial is not accurate about a host of things,” she told The Washington Times.
Mrs. Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly voiced concerns about the need for the panel to defer to home-state senators on judicial picks. Under a Senate tradition, senators are given a chance to show whether they approve of a judge picked from their state by returning a “blue slip” signifying acquiescence.
Some, though not all, past committee chairmen have declined to advance nominees without both home-state senators’ blue slips in hand.
GOP lawmakers, though, say that gives anti-Trump senators an unfair veto over his picks, and the Republican-led Senate has been processing federal appeals court nominees without deferring to blue-slip objections.
In a letter sent to the White House in November, Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Harris suggested picks the two Democrats would be willing to accept, including California Supreme Court Judge James Rogan, appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, appointed by President Obama. They said a third candidate could “be further agreed upon.”
They said the White House had struck a similar deal with Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, where the senators got to pick one judge and Mr. Trump got to pick one judge to fill a couple of vacancies on an appeals court.
“For the Ninth Circuit where there are three vacancies, this would involve our selecting a candidate form the White House list; the White House selecting a candidate form our list for the Ninth Circuit; and further discussions on a third nominee that both parties would agree on,” the letter added.
There are six vacancies on the 9th Circuit, though only three of them are considered California slots.
Mr. Trump had three nominees pending last year — Patrick Bumatay, Daniel Collins and Kenneth Lee — but they were not confirmed, and were returned to Mr. Trump at the end of the last Congress.
He has not renominated them yet, leaving conservatives to fret over a deal.
Mr. Bumatay, a federal prosecutor, is Filipino and would be the first openly gay judge on the liberal federal appeals court.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judiciary Crisis Network, said not appointing Mr. Bumatay would be a missed opportunity for Mr. Trump and an undeserving win for the progressive senators.
Ms. Feinstein was the senator who withheld Christine Blasey Ford’s letter last year, accusing Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process from GOP Chairman Charles E. Grassley at the time.
“Of course, it makes perfect sense that Feinstein and Harris would want to ditch Bumatay: the last thing they want is an originalist minority on the bench,” Ms. Severino wrote for the National Review.