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Dick Durbin responds to ‘Catholic bigotry’ charge against Trump’s appeals court nominee

October 31, 2017 GMT

The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, who questioned one of President Trump’s appeals court picks over her “orthodox” Catholic beliefs, said he’s opposing her not because she’s a woman or a faithful Catholic, but because she lacks experience.

“I’ll let my record speak for itself about the numbers of Catholic nominees that I have appointed to the bench,” Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said on the chamber floor Tuesday. “I don’t believe she has sufficient experience to be a circuit court judge.”

Republicans are moving to confirm four appeals court picks this week, with the next vote coming on Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame University law professor. GOP senators have said the questions asked of Ms. Barrett at her confirmation hearing, and Monday’s failed attempt by Democrats to mount a filibuster against her, are evidence of anti-Catholic bigotry.

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Mr. Durbin countered that Ms. Barrett doesn’t have enough relevant experience to hold an appeals court judgeship.

“She has barely spent anytime in the courtroom,” he said.

Mr. Durbin had asked Ms. Barrett during her confirmation hearing if she was an “orthodox Catholic,” drawing rebukes from religious conservative groups and GOP senators. Mr. Durbin, though, said he was using that term because Ms. Barrett use it herself in an academic writing. He said he was asking what exactly she meant by that.

“I have never run into the term ‘orthodox Catholic,’ ” Mr. Durbin said, citing his 19 years of Catholic education. “I’m Catholic myself.”

He said he would also vote against the other circuit court judges Mr. McConnell is putting up for confirmation votes later this week because of their records on workers’ rights, corporal punishment, and connections to conservative organizations like the Federalist Society and Judicial Crisis Network, which Mr. Durbin charges with being backed by dark money.

“These special interests likely have a stake in the cases that will come before these judges,” he said.

Also up for votes this week are Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid for the 10th Circuit and Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd Circuit.