The Senate Thursday confirmed Wendy Vitter, Donald Trump’s nominee to sit on the federal bench in New Orleans, despite strong objections from Democrats about her stance on Roe and Brown, respectively, the nation’s landmark pro-choice and school desegregation laws.
By a virtual party-line vote of 52-45 (with just one Republican, Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, joining the Democrats in opposing Vitter), Vitter heads to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Washington Post reports. Three remaining senators, presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), did not vote, according to the U.S. Senate roll call.
The federal judgeship is a lifetime appointment.
Democrats voted thumbs down on Vitter in the aftermath of harsh questioning of the former federal prosecutor during her confirmation hearing before the Senate last year.
Vitter, who is now general counsel for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, angered Democrats when they said she tried to hide her anti-abortion views from them. Anti-abortion statements Vitter made included claiming Planned Parenthood killed over 150,000 women a year; she also once hosted an anti-abortion forum called, “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health,” the Post reports.
Vitter’s refusal to say whether she thought Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that desegregated the nation’s public schools, was correctly decided also angered Dems.
“I don’t mean to be coy,” Vitter said at the time, CNN reports, “but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with.”
Instead, just as she had responded with regard to her anti-abortion views, Vitter testified that she would set aside her personal views when deciding cases on the federal bench.
“Again, my personal, political or religious views I would set aside — that is Supreme Court precedent,” Vitter said, according to CNN. “It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and of course, I would uphold it.”
On Wednesday, in advance of the Vitter vote Thursday, some Democrats openly expressed their concern, especially in the wake of Alabama’s move to virtually outlaw all abortions in that state.
As the Post reports:
Democrats remained unconvinced. [...]
“It is incredibly alarming that a nominee for the federal bench would be so willing to voice her support for such dangerous propaganda, especially when that same nominee is unwilling to voice her support for one of the landmark civil rights cases in our country’s history,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on the floor Wednesday.
Murray also compared giving a lifetime appointment to someone with Vitter’s views to Alabama’s new law that outlaws virtually all abortions, calling it “another extreme step politicians are taking to undermine women’s health.”
Vitter is the 107th federal judge and Trump appointee confirmed by the Senate since Trump took office.
Who sits on the federal bench matters. Any case involving questions of whether something is constitutional or that involves a federal agency or federal law is decided at the federal court level, starting with U.S. district courts like the one of which Vitter will now be a jurist.
The federal bench also often serves as a stepping stone for those who are eventually nominated to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.