Senate Democrats on Wednesday boycotted a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine a group of Trump administration nominees, complaining that the hearing shouldn't have been scheduled while the Senate was out of town.
Republican Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska were the only Republicans at the hearing, which was called to consider six of President Trump's judicial nominees.
The top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, had a scheduling conflict, a spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner. She called on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to postpone the hearing because the Senate is in recess.
“Holding hearings during a recess, when members cannot attend, fails to meet our constitutional advice-and-consent obligations,” Feinstein wrote to Grassley. “We respectfully request these hearings be postponed until after the recess.”
But Grassley, in a written response to Feinstein, said the hearing had already been postponed once and that Feinstein had previously agreed to the Oct. 17 date. Kennedy, who chaired the committee hearing in place of Grassley, called out Feinstein at the start of the proceedings.
“The ranking member was fully aware of the possibility that the Senate could go into recess in October when she consented with these hearing dates,” Kennedy said.
It’s rare for one party to avoid representation at a confirmation hearing, GOP committee aides said.
Feinstein had a genuine conflict. She faces her election rival Kevin De Leon, who is also a Democrat, in a debate scheduled for noon Pacific time.
But the battle highlights a longstanding partisan conflict over Trump’s judicial nominees and efforts by the Democrats to slow down confirmations.
Wednesday’s hearing included testimony first from Allison Jones Rushing, Trump’s nominee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, followed by five of the president’s picks to the federal district courts.
Rushing faced queries from just two senators in attendance, Sens. Hatch and Kennedy.
Rushing is a partner at the firm Williams & Connelly who has faced criticism for what Democrats say is a lack of experience. He graduated from law school in 2007 and practiced for seven years after clerking on the Supreme Court for Justice Clarence Thomas, and for Neil Gorsuch when he was on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kennedy pressed Rushing on whether she had “been in the trenches in a trial and gotten your hands dirty.”
“I can see your resume. You’re a rock star,” Kennedy said. “But I think to be a really good federal judge, you've got to have some life experience.”
Rushing defended her career and said her focus on Supreme Court and appellate litigation qualifies her for a seat on the 4th Circuit.
“My experience in the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court are why I’m qualified, not only the depth of that experience, but the variety,” she said. “The judges on the courts of appeals have a wide variety of cases, and I have that experience.”
Before wrapping up his questioning, Kennedy asked Rushing if she could name any of the people tasked with cleaning her office.
Rushing cited a woman by the name of Anita, but said the staff had changed during her recent maternity leave.