Senators on Tuesday approved Paul Matey to be a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, effectively flipping control of the court from Democratic-appointed judges to GOP picks.
Mr. Matey, who served as deputy chief counsel to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during Bridgegate, was confirmed on a 54-45 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, sided with Republicans on the vote.
Mr. Matey is the third Trump nominee and seventh GOP presidential appointee on the 3rd Circuit, given them the advantage over the six judges named by Democratic presidents.
Also on Tuesday, senators overcame a Democratic filibuster on Neomi Rao, a White House official whom Mr. Trump has nominated to fill the appeals court seat left vacant by the elevation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
She advanced on a 53-46 party line vote.
Republicans cheered the moves while liberal activists complained.
“The confirmation of Paul Matey is the latest erosion of Senate norms in President Trump and Senate Republican’s drive to pack the courts,” said Dan Goldberg legal director for Alliance for Justice.
Both Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, voted against the nominee and have said he’s a partisan lawyer who wouldn’t be impartial on the federal bench.
Neither New Jersey Democrat returned his “blue slip,” signaling their opposition to the pick.
Blue slips are a Senate tradition designed to give home-state senators a say in judges picked from their state. But the GOP majority has said it won’t be bound by blue slips when it comes to circuit courts.
Since there is no senator from Washington, D.C., Ms. Rao didn’t have to worry about blue slips.
But liberal groups and Democrats complained about Ms. Rao’s controversial writings from college where she said women were partly to blame in some campus sexual assaults due to alcohol consumption were disqualifying.
Ms. Rao has since apologized for her writings in a letter to lawmakers, saying a rapist is clearly responsible for sexual assault.
Her confirmation vote is expected later this week.