The Senate on Tuesday confirmed another of President Trump’s nominees to the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, increasing the number of Republican-appointed judges on what is widely considered the country’s most liberal appellate court.
Daniel Bress received party-line support in the 53-to-45 vote.
The president has publicly criticized the 9th Circuit — once called the “9th Circus” by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh — for ruling against his travel bans and blocking other executive orders. Just last week, the court rejected his administration’s appeal to use Pentagon funds for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster,” Trump tweeted in November in the wake of a different judge’s ruling against his administration’s asylum policy. The 9th Circuit would have heard any appeals of that ruling. “It is out of control, has a horrible reputation.”
Trump’s reference was to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who has defended the independence of the judiciary.
Bress’s confirmation gives Trump his seventh judge on the 9th Circuit, altering the historically liberal bench, which now has 16 judges nominated by Democratic presidents and 12 by Republicans. The court still has one vacancy.
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Bress, who clerked for the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, was praised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who blocked several of President Barack Obama’s nominees and has expedited Trump’s choices.
“Mr. Bress comes with strong credentials: the academic pedigree, the legal experience and, most importantly, a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Bress won confirmation over the objections of California’s two Democratic senators. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Kamala D. Harris questioned Bress’s ties to the state because he has worked for most of his law career in Washington.
“This is something we have never experienced before, and that is bringing a judge from one coast to put him in the 9th Circuit on the other coast,” Feinstein said in a floor speech against Bress. “It’s really, really very disturbing because one thing I’ve learned in over 20 years here is: What goes round, comes around.”
Bress was nominated to fill the vacancy left by Alex Kozinski, who resigned from the court in December 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.