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Even Without Democrats, Trump Judicial Nominee Gets Some Tough Questions

Sen. John Kennedy asked about Allison Jones Rushing’s experience for appeals court

Allison Jones Rushing, nominee to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit, testified Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Allison Jones Rushing, nominee to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit, testified Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t make the trip back to Capitol Hill to question one of President Donald Trump’s federal appellate picks Wednesday.

But that doesn’t mean she got away without some tough questions.

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana acted as chairman for the nomination hearing of Allison Jones Rushing. And Kennedy appeared to have some concerns about her level of work and life experience.

Trump nominated Jones Rushing, a 36-year-old North Carolina native who is a partner at Williams & Connolly, for a seat on the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I can see your résumé. You’re a rock star, but I think to be a really good federal judge you’ve got to have some life experience,” Kennedy said. “Williams & Connolly is a great law firm, a lot of great lawyers there. Tell me why you’re more qualified to be on the Fourth Circuit than some of the Williams & Connolly [lawyers] that have been there for 20 years, 25, 30 years in the trenches.”

“Again senator, my experience in the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court are why I’m qualified. Not only the depth of that experience but the variety,” she replied. “The judges on the courts of appeals get a wide variety of cases, and I have that experience in criminal law, prisoner petitions, products liability, intellectual property, commercial disputes, constitutional issues.”

“I will be ready when those cases come before me if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed,” Jones Rushing testified.

Watch: Trump Heads West to Campaign — And a Lot of Senators Do, Too

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Kennedy finished up by asking Jones Rushing a character question: if she knew the names of the people who clean her office space at Williams & Connolly.

To which the nominee testified that she had for a long time, although the person in that role recently changed.

Few senators were present for the hearing, which also included a panel of district court nominees. Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a former Judiciary chairman, was in town for questioning of Jones Rushing. Idaho Republican Michael D. Crapo and Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse were also in attendance.

But there were no attendees on the other side of the dais.

Senate Democrats had protested the scheduling of the hearing when the Senate itself had already gone out of session ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. And there was a back-and-forth of letters on Monday between the Democratic members of the panel and Chairman Charles E. Grassley.

The Iowa Republican wrote that he had already delayed the hearing for several weeks.

Continuing to hold Judiciary Committee nomination hearings, even with scarce attendance, is a key piece of the Senate GOP plan to continue to confirm Trump’s judicial nominees (especially to the federal appeals courts) during the post-election lame duck session.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged, in a Tuesday morning Bloomberg interview and elsewhere, to continue to prioritize judicial nominations for the rest of 2018.

“We’re going to clear the calendar of judges,” the Republican from Kentucky said.

He suggested that there could be a lengthy post-election session to process Trump nominees if there are hurdles thrown up by Senate Democrats.

Separately, speaking at a Heritage Foundation dinner Tuesday night, McConnell also said the Senate will continue that work over the next two years if the Republicans hold the Senate majority.

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