U.S. Senate panel advances first Biden appellate pick using Trump-era strategy

3 minute read

Andre Mathis, a nominee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testifies during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
  • Senate Judiciary Committee votes 12-10 for 6th Circuit nominee Andre Mathis
  • Tennessee's Republican senators say they were not sufficiently consulted

(Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel on Thursday advanced President Joe Biden's nomination of a Tennessee lawyer to sit on a federal appellate court over the objections of his state's two Republican senators, following a precedent set by the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 to clear the way for the full Senate to consider Andre Mathis' nomination to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in what has become a test of Biden's ability to rapidly put his stamp on the judiciary.

The Butler Snow partner was the first of Biden's appellate court nominees to go before the committee without the support of his home states' senators, whose backing historically would have been needed for him to even be considered.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

"The way the White House has handled this nomination from start to finish has made one thing very clear: The Biden White House has eliminated the role of home state senators in the nomination process," said Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

She said the White House failed to "meaningfully consult" with her or fellow Senator Bill Hagerty and went with an "unqualified" nominee over their alternative recommendation, a Tennessee state court appellate judge.

Democratic Committee Chair Dick Durbin of Illinois said he believed they were sufficiently consulted but that, regardless, their support was no longer needed.

That's because Durbin has followed a policy GOP senators first deployed during the Trump administration of not requiring "blue slips" to be returned by home state senators for circuit nominees.

The only Republican vote in favor of Mathis came from Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, who had previously said reviving the blue slip process now "would be perceived unfair to this administration."

Blackburn did not during Thursday's hearing raise a topic she focused on during Mathis' Jan. 12 hearing, when she pointed to a series of traffic tickets to say Mathis had a "a rap sheet with a laundry list of citations."

That comment about the lawyer, who is Black, drew criticism at the time, which was renewed Thursday by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla of California, who called it "demeaning" and "offensive."

He said it was "not lost on me that nominees of color are treated differently in our hearings," prompting Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah to object to what he called "extraordinarily unfair" insinuation of racial bias.

Read more:

Biden judicial nominee grilled amid objections by GOP home state senators

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.