The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Trump’s nominee to be a judge on the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a party-line vote — and, in a historic snub, the White House ignored the input of the judge’s two Democratic home-state senators in the process.
The aggressive and unprecedented move to bypass the traditional “blue slip” consultation process and plow ahead with the confirmation comes as the Trump administration seeks to erode left-wing dominance on the key appellate court, which Trump has called “disgraceful” and politically biased.
With a sprawling purview representing nine Western states, the appellate court has long been a thorn in the side of the Trump White House, with rulings against his travel ban policy and limits on funding to “sanctuary cities.”
The Seattle attorney, Eric Miller, was confirmed 53-46. Miller was one the 51 federal judicial nominees left over from the previous Congress whom the White House re-nominated last month.
Miller, currently the appellate chairman of the high-powered law firm Perkins Coie, will replace Judge Richard Tallman, a Bill Clinton appointee who assumed senior status March 2018. Miller is the fifth former clerk to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas to be nominated by Trump to a federal appellate court, including embattled D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Neomi Rao.
Among those objecting were Washington State’s two Democratic senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Aides say Miller’s confirmation marks the first time the Senate has strayed from tradition and confirmed a judicial nominee over the dissent of both home-state senators.
“This is wrong. It is a dangerous road for the Senate to go down,” Murray said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “Confirming this 9th Circuit court nominee without the consent or true input of both home-state senators, and after a sham hearing, would be a dangerous first for this Senate.”
Miller was nominated last year but faced opposition from Democrats, in part over his views on issues of tribal sovereignty.
The Sacramento Bee reported last year that White House officials had been negotiating with California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris about 9th Circuit appointments, but the dialogue collapsed, and the White House proceeded to announce three nominees over their objections.
Those nominees — Patrick Bumatay, Daniel Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee (all from the Golden State, and reportedly all members of the conservative Federalist Society) — have yet to be confirmed.
GOP critics have branded the court the “Nutty 9th,” in part because many of its rulings have been overturned by the Supreme Court.
Fox News’ Bill Mears and Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.