The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican said Tuesday that President Trump should "reconsider" and "not proceed" with two nominations for open seats on the federal bench, complicating the administration's efforts to push the picks through the confirmation process.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he has advised the Trump administration that "they ought to reconsider" Jeff Mateer's nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Mateer has come under fire for comments he made in 2015 defending discrimination, for saying that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and that transgender children were part of "Satan's plan," as first reported by CNN.
Grassley added that he "would advise the White House not to proceed" with the nomination of Brett Talley to the federal district court in Alabama, after reports emerged that in 2011 he had defended "the first KKK" on an online message board and had failed to disclose to the Judiciary Committee that his wife is the chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn.
"When we had the hearing, the controversy that now surrounds him wasn't brought up," Grassley said of Talley, who testified before the Judiciary Committee in October. The Senate panel approved his nomination last month over the objections of Democrats, who complained that Talley had never tried a case and had been ranked by the American Bar Association as "not qualified" for the federal bench.
Talley is awaiting Senate confirmation. Grassley stressed that it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision whether to put the nomination on the floor for a vote.
But Grassley's critical comments stand in sharp contrast to efforts Senate Republicans have made in recent months to approve Trump's judicial picks, at times even dispensing with the "blue slip" tradition of giving senators from affected states a chance to stymie the confirmation of controversial nominees to the appeals courts.
Grassley's warning about Talley came on the same day as the Senate confirmed another of Trump's judicial nominees who the ABA has determined is "not qualified" on a party-line, 50 to 48 vote. The ABA gave Leonard Steven Grasz, Trump's pick for an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, its lowest ranking, citing concerns about whether he would be able "to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge." Republicans have accused the ABA of driving a political agenda .