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Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein Again Sparring Over Judicial Nominations Schedule

Argument about October nomination hearings could be Kavanaugh fallout

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein are once again sparring over the judicial confirmation process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein are once again sparring over the judicial confirmation process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even with senators having left the Capitol, the battle over the pace of judicial nominations is not slowing down.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, led panel Democrats in protesting the scheduling of nomination hearings for federal judgeships while the Senate is holding only pro forma sessions.

But Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote in a letter responding to Feinstein that Wednesday’s hearing will not be postponed again. Grassley said the nominees on the schedule had already made travel plans to get to D.C.

“You argue that it’s unprecedented to do so without the minority’s consent. But you neglect to mention that you consented to hearings scheduled for October 10, 17, and 24. You made this agreement after I accommodated your numerous requests for postponements and with full knowledge that it was possible the Senate would go into recess in October,” Grassley said.

The disagreement appears to be a spillover from the longer-than-expected debate over the nomination of Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, since the original hearing date of Sept. 26, fell as senators were preparing to hear testimony from Christine Blasey Ford. She was the first woman to have come forward with sexual assault allegations against the then-nominee.

Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed to the Supreme Court, but not on the timeline first envisioned by the Senate GOP.

The Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee wrote in their letter that Grassley’s move ahead with the hearing would undermine their ability to provide advice and consent.

“The Committee has never before held nominations hearings while the Senate is in recess before an election. The handful of nominations hearings that have been held during a recess have been with the minority’s consent, which is not the case here — in fact, we were not even consulted,” the Democrats wrote. “In addition, three of us on the Democratic side represent the Ninth Circuit, and are unable to return to Washington for a day due to commitments in our states.”

Allison Jones Rushing, an attorney from North Carolina, is the headliner expected at this week’s hearing, according to a notice obtained by Roll Call. Jones Rushing, from North Carolina, has been nominated by President Donald Trump for a seat on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

There are several district judge nominees on this Wednesday’s schedule as well. Democrats are anticipating nominees for the Ninth Circuit will be appearing before the Judiciary Committee on Oct. 24.

Grassley and other Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have said they will continue to prioritize confirming Trump’s nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench during the post-election lame-duck session.

The latest back-and-forth comes after Democrats and Republicans cut a deal allowing senators to go home last Thursday in exchange for confirming another batch of Trump judicial nominations.

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