Senate Grinds Through Contested Nominations

After the “nuclear meltdown” in the Senate before Thanksgiving, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been working the Senate through the night this week to confirm a number of judicial and executive nominations contested by Republicans. Among those confirmed this week have been Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), author of performance tax legislation in this Congress, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as well as Chai Feldblum, a key ENDA drafter, to a second term at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, the Senate approved Nina Pillard to be a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said of Judge Pillard:

Professor Pillard may be a fine person, but she is not someone who should receive a lifetime position on the second highest court in the land…. A review of her legal views makes one thing clear: the nominee before us is a liberal ideologue — in other words, just the kind of person this administration was looking for to rubber stamp its most radical legislative and regulatory proposals on the D.C. Circuit Court.

Leader McConnell specifically highlighted Judge Pillard’s thoughts on the landmark and unanimous Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision upholding religious freedom:

Every single justice sided with the church’s argument in that case — every single one. It just makes sense. Freedom of religion is a bedrock foundation of our democracy…. But Professor Pillard seems to have a different view. Prior to the court’s unanimous decision, she said the notion that “the Constitution requires deference to church decisions about who qualifies as a minister” in the case before the court seemed “like a real stretch.” And she went even further than that. The position of the church in the Hosanna Tabor case, she said, represented a “substantial threat to the American rule of law.” … In other words, Professor Pillard must think even the furthest-left Supreme Court justice isn’t far left enough for her.

The Senate is likely to continue working on nominations, as well as possible budget and defense legislation into next week.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 13, 2013