WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats complained that Republicans held a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for a federal prosecutor President Donald Trump has nominated to serve on an influential appeals court despite opposition from his home state senators.
The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the nomination of Ryan Bounds to an Oregon-based seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over the objections of Oregon’s two senators, both Democrats.
The nomination is the latest confrontation with Democrats over Trump’s ambitious campaign to stock federal courts with conservative judges.
The Senate on Wednesday also voted to confirm the first of a new batch of six Trump appeals court nominees who were set for final votes. Kurt Engelhardt was confirmed on a 62-34 vote to serve on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the 16th of Trump’s appellate court picks to be approved.
With Trump’s fellow Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats have only a limited ability to stop confirmation of his judicial nominees. In Bounds’ case, Oregon’s Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have said the White House did not sufficiently consult with them over the nomination despite the longstanding Senate tradition that senators have a say over judicial nominations from their own states.
“What we are seeing repeatedly - and these nominations are part of a pattern - is the administration’s attempts to radically re-shape our judiciary and remake the bench in the image of the far-right fringe of the Republican Party,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said at the hearing.
Democrat pressed Bounds on newspaper columns he wrote as a student at Stanford University in the 1990s that they said showed an insensitively toward racial minorities and victims of sexual harassment. Bounds apologized for the “overheated” tone of some of the articles but defended their substance.
As a practicing lawyer, he has been involved in efforts to foster diversity in the legal profession, he noted. As a prosecutor, he has sought justice for victims of sexual assault, he added.
In responding to questions from Democratic Senator Chris Coons on whether he acknowledged that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face discrimination, Bounds appeared visibly emotional as he recounted friends experiencing such treatment.
“It was very upsetting,” Bounds said.
A full vote in the committee on his nomination has not yet been scheduled.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham