While most of Washington was focused on a House hearing to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, Senate Republicans on Wednesday confirmed another one of President Donald Trump’s picks for a lifetime court seat ― and once again broke from precedent to get it done.
The Senate voted 54-42 to confirm Joseph Bianco to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York. Every Republican voted for him. All but two Democrats ― Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) ― opposed him. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) did not vote.
Bianco’s confirmation marks the third time in history that the Senate has confirmed a judicial nominee over the objections of both of a nominee’s home-state senators. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, didn’t turn in their so-called “blue slips” for Bianco, which are literally blue pieces of paper that signal a senator is ready to move forward with a nominee from his or her home state.
Traditionally, the Senate won’t move forward with a judicial nominee unless both blue slips are turned in. Some nominees have advanced with one turned in.
“Another day, another partisan push by Senate Republicans for hard-right nominees to get lifetime appointments on the federal bench,” Schumer said in March, after the Judiciary Committee voted to advance Bianco over his objection. “I will be strongly opposing these nominations when they come to the Senate floor.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has overseen all three cases of the Senate breaking from this tradition. Earlier this year, he plowed ahead with confirming judges Eric Miller and Paul Matey to circuit courts over the objections of both of their home-state senators.
Bianco, 52, is currently a district judge and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which has been driving Trump’s judicial selection process by funneling nominees to the White House who oppose abortion rights, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.
He’s also Trump’s 38th confirmed circuit court judge. That’s more circuit judges than any president has gotten by this point in a first term, and means that one in every six seats on the nation’s circuit courts is now filled by a Trump nominee.