The Washington Post

Senate confirms federal judge after 17-year wait but partisan warfare to continue

Ronnie White was first nominated to be a federal judge by Bill Clinton (Photo: Ray Lustig/TWP)

Former Missouri Supreme Court judge Ronnie White’s 17-year wait for a U.S. District Court seat ended Wednesday afternoon as the Senate, split along party lines, voted 53-44 to approved his nomination.

As the Loop reported Tuesday:

White, an African-American, was only 44 when President Bill Clinton nominated him for the job in 1997. But the GOP Senate, again on a party-line vote, didn’t confirm him in 1999, criticizing him as being soft on crime. Supporters said race played a part in his rejection. The bitter dispute has simmered ever since.

President Obama renominated White for the job in November. (Sarah Binder of The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage wrote a great history explainer then.) At White’s confirmation hearing in May, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “It’s not often that the Senate gets a do-over. In your case, it’s long overdue,” according to a Congressional Quarterly article.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination on a 10-8, party-line vote on June 19 (also known as  Juneteenth, the day slavery was declared abolished in Texas in 1865.)

But while the fight over White’s nomination is over, the decades-long fight over judicial nominations shows no sign of cooling down.

Durbin, who spoke to White to congratulate him, told our colleague Paul Kane Wednesday that the initial opposition against White was “one of the cruelest things ever done in the Senate.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the longest-serving Republican in the Senate who again opposed White’s confirmation, blamed Democrats for starting the confirmation wars. “They started this stuff,” he told Kane. “I go way back when they started pulling this crap. . . It basically started with [Judge Robert H.] Bork” in 1987. “He was treated terribly.”

But for White, the battle ended Wednesday. Unclear if his robes from the Missouri state court still fit properly. He may have to shell out for some new ones as he heads to the federal bench.


Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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