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Conservatives frustrated over alleged deal for liberal 9th Circuit judicial picks

January 30, 2019

Conservatives warned the White House on Wednesday against striking a deal with California’s two Democratic senators to water down President Trump’s judicial picks for the West Coast’s federal appeals court.

Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican close to Mr. Trump, said he will call and try to scuttle the negotiations, reported by The Wall Street Journal, that would have the White House pick one conservative, one consensus nominee and one liberal nominee for three openings on the already liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Why do we need to do a deal? This is totally within our purview. We can do this with 51 votes, and we’ve shown that we can do that. We stuck together as a Republican caucus in the Senate and delivered results for the president. And he has sent up really good candidates,” Mr. Perdue told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly railed against the liberal bent of the 9th Circuit, making talk of a deal all the more stunning to the president’s allies, who say he would be squandering a chance to dramatically reshape the court.

The court has six vacancies to be filled. Mr. Trump had five nominees pending at the end of last year, but they all got sent back at the end of the last Congress. He has since renominated two of them, but the other three have faced opposition from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, California Democrats.

According to multiple reports, the senators are trying to reach an agreement with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to shape the president’s list.

Conservatives see the 85 federal court judges confirmed during the president’s first two years as Mr. Trump’s best accomplishment.

They say capitulating to either California Democratic senator is unnecessary because the GOP has the majority on both the Judiciary Committee and the chamber to confirm the president’s picks without Democratic votes.

Additionally, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed Wednesday titled “A Bad Judges Deal” highlighting opposition to the rumored agreement, saying any concession by Mr. Trump would be “seen as political weakness.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged deal.

Ashley Schapitl, a spokesperson for Ms. Feinstein, disputed reports of the deal.

“The Wall Street Journal editorial is not accurate about a host of things,” she told The Washington Times.

Mrs. Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly voiced concerns about the need for home state senators to return blue slips, showing consent with the president’s picks for the federal bench.

The Republicans have been processing federal appeals court nominees with or without blue slips from their home state senators.

Of Mr. Trump’s five 9th Circuit nominees pending last year, the president has renominated Eric Miller and Bridget Bade. The other three, who have not been renominated, are Patrick Bumatay, Daniel Collins or Kenneth Lee.

Mr. Bumatay, a federal prosecutor, is Filipino and would be the first openly gay judge on the liberal federal appeals court.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judiciary Crisis Network, said not appointing Mr. Bumatay would be a missed opportunity for Mr. Trump and an undeserving win for the progressive senators.

Ms. Feinstein was the senator who withheld Christine Blasey Ford’s letter last year, accusing Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process from GOP Chairman Charles E. Grassley at the time.

“Of course, it makes perfect sense that Feinstein and Harris would want to ditch Bumatay: the last thing they want is an originalist minority on the bench,” Ms. Severino wrote for the National Review.

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