Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted to confirm President Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Brett Kavanaugh on an influential circuit court.
Senators voted 53-46 on Neomi Rao’s nomination to fill the seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals left vacant by Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court.
No Democrats voted for Rao, who ran into controversy over writings on sexual assault and minorities.
“Today the Senate votes on the nomination of Neomi Rao to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court for life. She has minimal experience practicing law-no trials, no appeals, only one brief filed in U.S. court-and her writings on race, sexual assault, and other issues are deeply troubling,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote in a tweet ahead of the vote.
Rao, who serves as Trump’s regulatory czar, was grilled by Democrats and Republicans during her hearing about controversial college writings including a 1994 opinion piece for The Yale Herald in which she appeared to argue that women are partially to blame for sexual assault.
Rao wrote at the time that if a woman “drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was a part of her choice.”
But Democrats aren’t able to block Trump’s nominees on their own after they nixed the 60-vote filibuster for executive nominees and most judicial picks.
If they wanted to block Rao they would have needed to flip four Republicans, an uphill task in a caucus that has made confirming Trump’s circuit court picks a top priority.
Both Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) raised concerns about Rao while her nomination was before the Judiciary Committee, but ultimately supported her.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) also reportedly had concerns about Rao but voted for her nomination on the Senate floor. Scott has previously help sink two of Trump’s nominees during the previous Congress—when Republicans had a narrow 51-seat majority.
Appeals courts, in particular, are a top priority for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) because the circuit courts hear thousands of cases every year — compared to the Supreme Court, which heard 69 cases during their last term — and often have the final say for states within their jurisdiction.
Republicans have confirmed Trump’s picks for the circuit courts at a record pace, with Rao being the fifth to receive a vote in the past two weeks.
McConnell, speaking before the vote, called Rao “another of the president’s excellent choices to serve as a federal judge.”
“In testimony before our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, she demonstrated a commitment to maintaining the public trust, and upholding the rule of law,” McConnell added.