Senate confirms Neomi Rao to Kavanaugh’s seat on D.C. appeals court

March 13, 2019 GMT

The Senate confirmed Neomi Rao Wednesday to fill the seat left vacant on the circuit appeals court by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

She was approved on a 53-46 party-line vote after overcoming concerns of some Democrats about her past writings and judicial approach.

Conservative groups cheered her confirmation as a major win for President Trump, saying her expertise on regulatory matters at the Office of Management and Budget will serve her well on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which hears many of the challenges to federal agency action.

“Neomi Rao’s confirmation is a major victory for bringing the regulatory state back in line with the Constitution. Rao’s expertise in implementing and reviewing federal regulations makes her an excellent choice to succeed now Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at FreedomWorks.


Democrats said her past writings were disqualifying and objected to her work as a White House official, where she rolled back regulations aimed at protecting consumers and the environment.

During a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, just minutes before the Senate vote, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse again complained about Ms. Rao, accusing her of misleading the committee during her confirmation hearing last month.

Mr. Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, said she didn’t disclose that while she was at George Mason’s Center for the Study of the Administrative State, the group received money from the Koch brothers and anonymous donors. He also said she wasn’t forthcoming on her consultation with the Federalist Society on faculty hires at the school.

Ms. Rao was the second federal appeals court nominee confirmed this week, and the 36th federal appeals court judge appointed overall since President Trump took office.

The Judiciary Committee also held hearings for two more circuit court nominees, both to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Wednesday.

Daniel P. Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee faced opposition from their home state lawmakers, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, who did not return their blue slips, signaling their opposition to the pick.

Blue slips are a Senate tradition designed to give home-state senators a say in judges picked from their state. But the GOP majority has said it won’t be bound by blue slips when it comes to circuit courts.

Democrats objected to Mr. Collins’ representation as an attorney of corporations in the fossil fuels industry. They also raised concerns about Mr. Lee’s college writings where he expressed strong political views.

Some of the articles discussed his personal views on affirmative action, immigration and sexism.