The Senate on Thursday confirmed Wendy Vitter’s appointment to the federal bench, as Republicans overcame strong opposition from Democrats who criticized the nominee’s stand against abortion.
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican to join Democrats and independents in opposing Vitter’s nomination, in the 52-to-45 vote.
Vitter has been waiting for confirmation since President Trump nominated her for a U.S. District Court seat in New Orleans nearly 18 months ago. The nomination expired in the last session of the Senate with no action. A former prosecutor, Vitter has served more recently as general counsel for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.
“Ms. Vitter’s impressive legal career includes experience in private practice and a decade in the New Orleans Parish district attorney’s office, where she handled more than 100 felony jury trials,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday in arguing for Vitter’s confirmation.
Vitter stands as the 107th judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017, as he and McConnell have pushed to remake the courts, installing conservatives who will serve for years. Under Trump, the Republican-led Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 40 circuit court judges and 65 district court judges.
Vitter drew ire from Democrats after a judicial watchdog group found statements she had made against abortion that were not included in the extensive background disclosure forms she was required to provide to the Senate.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in April 2018, Vitter faced intense questioning from Democrats over those comments — which included claiming Planned Parenthood killed over 150,000 women a year — and her moderating an event called, “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health.” Republicans defended Vitter, arguing that despite a few omissions she had never tried to hide her antiabortion beliefs.
Vitter told the panel that her personal views would not influence her decision-making as a judge.
“I will be bound by precedent, including Roe versus Wade,” Vitter testified, referring to the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide. She later added: “My religious, personal or political beliefs would have to be set aside. It is not something I would aspire to; it would be my duty and my obligation to do so, and I would do so without hesitation.”
Democrats remained unconvinced. They also have criticized Vitter for refusing to say during her confirmation hearing whether she agreed with the Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated schools.
“It is incredibly alarming that a nominee for the federal bench would be so willing to voice her support for such dangerous propaganda, especially when that same nominee is unwilling to voice her support for one of the landmark civil rights cases in our country’s history,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on the floor Wednesday.
Murray also compared giving a lifetime appointment to someone with Vitter’s views to Alabama’s new law that outlaws virtually all abortions, calling it “another extreme step politicians are taking to undermine women’s health.”
Vitter stood by her husband, former senator David Vitter (R-La.), in 2007 when he was named in connection with a D.C. prostitution ring. When he confessed his “serious sin” during a news conference, his wife spoke up in his defense. “I stand before you to tell you very proudly, I am proud to be Wendy Vitter,” she said.
The scandal resurfaced again in 2015 when David Vitter ran for Louisiana governor, losing to Democrat John Bel Edwards, a remarkable victory for Democrats in what has become an increasingly Republican state.