And it comes on the heels of a trio of Trump's judicial nominees — Brett Talley to an Alabama district court, Jeff Mateer to a federal court in eastern Texas and Matthew Petersen to the district court in the District of Columbia — facing similarly unceremonious fates. The first two were withdrawn after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote the White House urging it to reconsider the nominations and said they wouldn't be confirmed; the third withdrew after a grilling courtesy of GOP Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) at a hearing last week. Kennedy, an increasingly intriguing figure in the Senate, had also indicated he would vote against Talley and Mateer, saying Trump received “bad advice” in selecting them.
In all four cases, the qualifications — or lack thereof — for each of the nominees have been at issue. Talley and Petersen, in particular, lacked the traditional relevant experience to be federal trial judges, with Petersen unable to respond to Kennedy's questions about some basic legal terms. Talley was rated as unqualified by the American Bar Association. And both Talley and Mateer had also said highly controversial things in the past. As The Post's James Hohmann wrote Tuesday, Kennedy had many reasons for standing up against these three nominations, along with Grassley.
With Garrett, the reasons are a bit more complicated. Garrett as a congressman vocally criticized and supported shutting down the Export-Import Bank when the issue tore the Republican Party apart. Trump had also criticized it, calling it the “Bank of Boeing,” and his selection of Garrett had long been a sore spot for senators such as Scott, who come from states where companies such as Boeing are vital to the economy.
What's notable here is that these senators and congressmen were basically forced to go public with their opposition before the White House would back down. Rather than handling these matters quietly and behind closed doors, the members rebuked their own party's nominees — and by extension, the president who nominated them — through their comments and votes. Whether that's because the White House refused to back down (Kennedy indicated a few weeks ago that it wasn't listening to his concerns) or for some other reason, it suggests a growing willingness to buck the president from some unlikely sources.
It's also worth noting just how rare Garrett's defeat was. It's actually the first time in more than three decades that a president's party controlled the Senate and defeated one off his nominees in committee. (This doesn't account for nominations that were pulled before a vote could be held.)
Not that this is necessarily a massive embarrassment for the White House; nominations such as these going down are usually one-day stories, and Trump's judicial nominees have glided along at a record pace, with 12 appeals court judges confirmed this year. But the proximity of these examples and the very public complaints about Trump's nominees from GOP senators suggest they're not terribly concerned about alienating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on some lower-profile issues — especially when those issues are important to their constituents and supporters.
This week will very probably wind up being a high-water mark for Republican opposition to Trump's nominees. We'll see how much the White House fights back and whether this is a sign of things to come.