The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday gave initial approval to President Trump’s nominee for a federal appeals court over strong objections from Democrats.
In a 12-10 vote along party lines, the Senate advanced the nomination of Judge Andrew Brasher, 38, for confirmation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He will head to the full Senate for a vote after Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
The Eleventh Circuit is one of the nation’s powerful appeals courts covering Florida, Georgia and Alabama. It is issued some of the nation’s most important rulings on desegregation and civil rights.
Democrats vociferously protested the nomination of Judge Brasher, who currently sits on the Middle District of Alabama. He was confirmed to that position last year in a 52-47 Senate vote with no support from Democrats.
Judge Brasher previously served as Alabama’s solicitor general for three years where he filed briefs supporting conservative causes on issues from abortion to voting rights.
Democrats on the committee said his views are too extreme for the appellate court.
“He has constantly attempted to narrow civil rights protections, including reproductive rights, marriage equality and voting rights,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat.
Left-leaning groups such as the National Urban League and NCAAP have opposed Judge Brasher’s nomination, saying his positions in voting rights cases were “alarming.”
Republicans countered that Judge Brasher’s legal arguments were made while he represented Alabama’s government in these cases. They said his positions in those cases should be separated from judicial views.
“It is unfair and dangerous to think that someone who advocates on behalf of a client in court should be disqualified because they are making a legal argument,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
“Lawyers…have a duty to advocate and advance every argument they can that tends to support their client’s case,” he continued.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, urged his colleagues to focus on Judge Brasher’s experience.
“I don’t see how any fair-minded person can look at his credentials and say he is not well-credentialed,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Democrat protests continued, however.
They quickly pointed to the lack of support by Sen. Roy Jones, Alabama Democrat, for Judge Brasher’s nomination. Typically, U.S. Senators will advocate for judges from their home state, even if the nominee is from the opposite political party.
“Senator Jones has voted for every one of Trump’s nominees,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat. “He’s as reasonable as they come.”
The committee also advanced the nomination of 10 other federal judges, but Judge Brasher was the only one who drew complaints from Democrats.
It is not clear when the full Senate will decide Judge Brasher’s fate. The impeachment trial is scheduled to begin next week but lawmakers are still sussing out if there will be witnesses and other procedural issues.