U.S. Senate

Senate confirms William Barr as attorney general

The Senate confirmed William P. Barr as the new attorney general Thursday, giving President Trump a new top cop and special counsel Robert Mueller a new overseer. Analysts said they expect Mr. Barr to be a steadying presence — and doubted there will be much of a shift in course from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Both Sessions and Barr are very tough on crime, law enforcement-minded people on issues like drug offenses and immigration, so there is not much light or space between them,” said Jimmy Gurule, a University of Notre Dame law professor who was an assistant attorney general under Mr. Barr during his first term as attorney general, for President George H.W. Bush. Mr. Barr was approved on a 54-45 vote, with only a few Democrats voting in favor, and just one Republican opposed. He was sworn in at the White House on Thursday afternoon, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administering the oath of office. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Mr. Barr’s confirmation “a major victory for justice and the rule of law in America.” During his previous stint as attorney general Mr. Barr took a strict stance on illegal immigration, and pushed for mandatory minimum sentences, just as Mr. Sessions did. That could prove to be an early test for Mr. Barr, after Mr. Trump late last year signed the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill that trimmed back those sentencing rules. Both Mr. Barr and Mr. Sessions had opposed it, though when asked about the legislation during his confirmation hearing, Mr. Barr promised to “faithfully enforce that law.”

Congrats to AG Barr!

Senate Rebukes Harris and Hirono on Knights of Columbus

On Wednesday the Senate approved a resolution that rebuked two Democratic senators for questioning judicial nominees about their membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization. The resolution, introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), affirmed “the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates the Constitution of the United States.” The Senate proceeded to affirm the resolution without objection. Last month, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), both on the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned a judicial nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus and whether it would affect his ability to fairly judge cases. Brian Buescher was nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Hirono sent written questions claiming “the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.” She also asked if Buescher would quit the group if confirmed “to avoid any appearance of bias.” Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” in her questions, and also asked if Buescher knew the Knights “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he became a member. Sasse’s resolution also referenced the anti-Catholic bigotry Democratic president John F. Kennedy faced during his presidency, and cited the Knights of Columbus’s “proud tradition of standing against the forces of prejudice and oppression such as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Germany.” The resolution asked the Senate to express its sense “that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates Clause 3 of Article 6 of the Constitution of the United States which establishes that senators ‘shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution[; but] no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.'” Sasse urged his fellow senators to rebuke the anti-Catholic attacks against Buescher. “If a senator has a problem with this resolution, you’re probably in the wrong line of work because this is what America is. This is a super basic point, no religious test. If someone has a problem with this resolution, what other parts of the Constitution are you against: freedom of the press, women’s right to vote, freedom of speech? This isn’t hard. No religious test for serving on the federal bench. We should, in this body, rebuke these anti-Catholic attacks,” Sasse said. After the resolution was affirmed, the Nebraska senator said he would report back to Buescher “that he can ignore those questions that he received about whether or not he would resign his membership in the Knights of Columbus.”

Dem. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are nauseating, self-righteous, religious bigots.  Kudos to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) for calling them out like this publicly on the floor of the Senate and getting this resolution passed.  Excellent!!   🙂

Lindsey Graham elected Senate Judiciary Committee chairman

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was elected Wednesday to serve as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. The role was previously held by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who announced in November that he would be stepping down. Grassley became the Senate Finance Committee Chairman on Wednesday, according to a news release. “I’m honored to be selected as chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” Graham said in a separate news release. “I will do my best to continue down the path charted by Senator Grassley of having a fair and vibrant committee process.” He said that “the confirmation of conservative judges will be one of my top priorities as chairman.” Graham said he looked forward to collaborating with fellow lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., “to make this new Congress successful.” Feinstein is the ranking member on the committee. Earlier Wednesday, Graham revealed that under his leadership, the committee plans to probe allegations of government surveillance abuse amid ongoing concerns over FBI and Justice Department efforts to surveil Trump campaign advisers during the 2016 race.

 

Arizona Governor Expected to Appoint Jon Kyl as McCain’s Replacement

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to name former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to fill Sen. John McCain’s Senate seat for the remainder of McCain’s term. McCain passed away from brain cancer last month after about a year-long battle. Gov. Ducey, in a tough re-election fight this year himself, pledged to wait until McCain was laid to rest before naming a successor. News broke Tuesday that Ducey will hold a 10:00 a.m. press conference in Phoenix, which is 1:00 p.m. Eastern: “Jon Kyl is a dear friend of mine and John’s. It’s a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona,” posted McCain’s widow, Cindy, leading up to Ducey’s announcement: The tweet gave apparent confirmation to rumors that Kyl will receive the appointment to fill the remainder of McCain’s current term in the U.S. Senate. The seat will be up for a vote next in 2020.

Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) is a wise/prudent choice to serve out the reminder of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) term.

Chuck Schumer votes against Trump judicial nominee…because he’s white

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faced a stern rebuke from congressional colleagues for citing skin color in voting against a white federal judge nominee earlier this week. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum, a white lawyer who is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Greenville, S.C., “speaks to the overall lack of diversity in President Trump’s selections for the federal judiciary.” He complained that many of Trump’s nominees have been white males. He also complained that Republicans previously held up two black judges nominated under the Obama administration for the position— which The Post and Courier notes has long been vacant. “It is long past time that the judiciary starts looking a lot more like the America it represents,” Schumer said. “Having a diversity of views and experience on the federal bench is necessary for the equal administration of justice.” The senator said that with Quattlebaum’s nomination, the Trump administration was “taking a giant step backwards” in terms of diversity. Quattlebaum was ultimately confirmed to the district judgeship on Thursday, 69-29. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, slammed Schumer for his statements. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday it was actually Schumer’s vote against Quattlebaum that was “a massive step backward.” While Schumer “is not a racist,” Graham tweeted, “this was an absolutely shameful reason to vote against a very qualified nominee like Marvin Quattlebaum.” He added, “Voting against a highly qualified nominee because of the color of his skin does nothing to bring our country and nation together.” Sen. Tim Scott, also a Republican serving South Carolina and the GOP’s sole black senator, tweeted, “Perhaps Senate Democrats should be more worried about the lack of diversity on their own staffs than attacking an extremely well-qualified judicial nominee from the great state of South Carolina.” Schumer asserted that the only reason Quattlebaum was nominated for the unoccupied position was because the state’s Republican senators didn’t return their “blue slips” — a blue form used by senators to voice approval or disapproval for a home state nominee — for Obama nominees Alison Lee and Don Beatty in 2013. Democrats have said that Republicans used blue slips to block about 18 of Obama’s nominations, arguing the denial of a hearing for a nominee without two blue slips was fine with Republicans then. Democrats said the policy shouldn’t change just because the person who sits in the White House is different. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., countered on Twitter that Lee’s nomination “was withdrawn because of a significant bond issue” and Beatty eventually was appointed as the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court.

And who, exactly is the real racist here?  Exactly…  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is notorious for shamelessly playing the race card.  Looks like it may have backfired just a little this time..  Regardless, another very qualified Trump nominee has been confirmed, despite the outrageous, hypocritical, and offensive political posturing by Chuck Schumer.  Congrats to this new judge!

Senate approves Alex Azar as HHS secretary

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alex Azar as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, entrusting a former pharmaceutical executive to tamp down drug prices and steer President Trump’s attempts to reshape Obamacare. A handful of Democrats joined all but one Republican in approving the nominee, 55-43, brushing aside liberal voices who said Mr. Azar’s track record of raising prices at drugmaker Eli Lilly made him the wrong man for the job. Republicans said Mr. Azar’s resume was an asset, not a liability. A sharp lawyer who served in the Bush administration, Mr. Azar is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of how HHS works and a firm grasp on how perverse market incentives are driving drug prices upward. “His distinguished record – including prior HHS service as deputy secretary and private-sector work – shows he is the right man for the job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell said. “It is vital that this department be headed by a leader with Mr. Azar’s extensive qualifications and excellent reputation.” Mr. Azar will fill a secretary chair that’s been occupied by acting boss Eric D. Hargan for several months. President Trump’s first pick for the job — former congressman Tom Price — resigned amid revelations he used expensive charter planes for business travel. Once installed, Mr. Azar will oversee a sprawling, $1-trillion agency that regulates and approves drugs, combats disease and runs public health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Senate confirms Trump’s solicitor general Noel Francisco

Senators on Tuesday approved Noel Francisco to be solicitor general, giving President Trump a new chief courtroom lawyer just ahead of a packed Supreme Court term. The Senate’s 50-47 vote split along party lines, with Democrats objecting to the skilled Mr. Francisco, whose biggest victory in private practice was defeating former President Barack Obama’s attempted power grab over presidential recess appointments. Now, Mr. Francisco finds himself in the position of defending Mr. Trump, who is fighting a long list of court battles over everything from immigration to environmental policy. “From amnesty cities to DACA to travel bans to transgender bans, the Trump Administration faces defining moments before the court. It needs a solicitor general at the helm that supports its policies and priorities,” said Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University. He said the confirmation will also bring needed relief to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been leading the Justice Department with “a truly skeleton staff.” Mr. Francisco will now be able to help shape courtroom strategy for the department. Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said Mr. Francisco will have his first test in three weeks when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the travel ban case Oct. 10, since Mr. Francisco previously worked with the Justice Department on it. “It’s a case he’s already familiar with,” she said. “I think it’s likely he’s actually arguing it.”