WASHINGTON ― It’s not looking good for Halil Suleyman Ozerden, President Donald Trump’s nominee to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.), now say they plan to oppose his confirmation. It only takes one “no” GOP vote on the committee to kill a nomination, assuming all Democrats vote no. And right around the time news broke Thursday that Hawley was joining Cruz in opposition, the committee postponed a morning hearing in which Ozerden was due for his vote.
“I don’t think the votes are there,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), also on the committee, told reporters later Thursday.
Cruz and Hawley appear to oppose Ozerden, who is currently a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, for the same reason: because of his past ruling in favor of dismissing a challenge to the contraception coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. When asked about it during his confirmation hearing, Ozerden said the plaintiffs in that case had challenged the contraceptive mandate at a time when the federal government had already said it was changing that rule. So Ozerden ruled that their claims were premature and that his court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the dispute, and he dismissed the lawsuit.
There have only been a handful of times when Republicans have helped bring down a Trump court pick. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) helped tank appeals court nominee Ryan Bounds over his record of racist writings. Scott and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) helped bring down district court nominee Thomas Farr, who has a record of being hostile to African American voting rights. District court nominee Matthew Spencer Petersen withdrew his nomination after a humiliating exchange with Kennedy in which he couldn’t answer basic questions about law.
Ozerden isn’t the only judicial nominee in trouble. Kennedy has said he’s leaning against supporting appeals court nominee Steven Menashi, who was also on Thursday’s Judiciary Committee agenda, after he refused to give any details in his confirmation hearing on his work as a White House legal aide. Aides to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who are both on the committee, have not responded to multiple requests for comment on whether they support Menashi after his hearing performance.
Graham, the Judiciary chairman, was mum Thursday on whether Ozerden’s nomination is toast or whether there’s still a chance that he could advance. Congress is about to head into a two-week recess, which means things will be on hold for now anyway.
“Ozerden. Good guy. I like him a lot,” Graham told reporters as he walked briskly toward the elevators. “We’ll talk about all that when we get back.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Ozerden’s setback and on whether they are considering withdrawing his nomination.