Congress

Democrats vow Judge Chad Readler will be 2020 issue

Murray and Schumer among Democrats blasting his role in targeting health care law

The Senate confirmed Chad A. Readler, President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the 6th Circuit, on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats say they will remember the Wednesday afternoon vote to confirm Chad A. Readler, one of President Donald Trump’s most contentious judicial nominees.

The 52-47 vote to install Readler on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio could easily be lumped in with many other Trump choices pushed through the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But Readler’s connection to  the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the 2010 health care law and its pre-existing condition protections in litigation led by the state of Texas struck a particular chord, as Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Patty Murray said ahead of the confirmation vote.

“People across the country haven’t forgotten how they had to speak up and stop Republicans from jamming through their awful Trumpcare bill, which would have spiked premiums, gutted Medicaid, and put families back at the mercy of big insurance companies, who could jack up prices for people with pre-existing conditions,” the Washington Democrat said. “Because let’s be clear. Chad Readler’s nomination is the latest test of whether Republicans are serious about fighting for people’s health care — and every Republican who supports him is failing yet again.”

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer seconded the message that Democrats would not let this one go. 

“Can you imagine voting for a man that is so cold hearted that he doesn’t protect a mother who has a daughter or son with cancer, and the insurance companies cuts them off, and they have to watch their child suffer? Will our Republican colleagues actually vote for a nominee who feels that way — not just in his word, but in his action? It’s going to be remembered — this vote — for a long time,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “A long, long time.”

And this time, one Republican senator echoed the argument made by Murray, Schumer and other Democrats.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced Tuesday that she would oppose Readler’s confirmation, citing his “role in the government’s failure to defend provisions under current law that protect individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

“I strongly objected to DOJ’s position to not defend the law, and it is telling that this position also concerned some other career attorneys in the Department. In fact, three career attorneys withdrew from the case rather than support this position, and one of those attorneys eventually resigned,” Collins said in a statement, adding that the Justice Department’s position in the case was simply “wrong and implausible.”

A number of outside groups that support the health care law that came into effect under President Barack Obama have seized on the nominee as the latest example of the GOP’s hostility to health care access, as has the political operation of Senate Democrats.

“The Republicans who support his nomination learned nothing from the shellacking their party suffered during the midterms, and they continue to set the stage for their own defeat in 2020,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Readler is the second of three Trump appellate nominees on track for confirmation this week, following confirmation of Allison Jones Rushing by a 53-44 vote to a seat on the 4th Circuit. She faced questions about her relative inexperience.

Senators also voted 53-46 to limit debate on the nomination of Eric Murphy to another 6th Circuit seat shortly after confirming Readler on Wednesday.

And the confirmations are coming ahead of what seems like an inevitable move by McConnell and Senate Republicans to use the “nuclear option” to enact new Senate precedents that could sharply curtail the debate time — to up to two hours — for lower-level federal district judges, as well as a host of executive branch nominees.

Former Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont again criticized Republicans on Wednesday for not honoring the “blue slips” from Democratic senators when it comes to appeals court nominees, which had been used for decades to indicate consent of home state senators for the confirmation process to move forward.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has blasted the Readler nomination. Republicans have argued that such blue slips were not often enforced when it comes to appeals court seats.

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt highlighted the debate on Tuesday, pointing out that former Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana has been reported out of committee on voice vote twice, but had not yet overcome Democratic objections to be confirmed to a sub-Cabinet position in the Trump administration.

“This week, our leader is required to allocate 30 hours of debate time to confirm the deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development,” the Missouri Republican said. “Most Americans would have a hard time remembering that full title, including me.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.