WSJ says it is “Bad. ” It must be Good.
Wall Street Journal Editorial 1.30.2019
President Trump’s best achievement has arguably been judicial selection. From the Supreme Court to the appellate circuits to district-court nominees, he is remaking the federal courts. So more than a few eyes widened this month when the White House omitted three names from the list of 50 judges Mr. Trump sent back up to the Senate. What intrigue gives?
The three missing names were Californians nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Two other Ninth Circuit nominees, Eric Miller of Washington and Bridget Bade of Arizona, were renominated. But Daniel Collins, Kenneth Lee and Patrick Bumatay were withheld because we’re told the White House is negotiating with California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
Ms. Feinstein and the White House counsel’s office have been pen pals on this for some time. In a November letter to new White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Harris requested “that the White House work with us to reach an agreement on a consensus package of nominees.” The Democrats want to pick one name from the White House list, one from their own, and a third consensus nominee.
Why Mr. Cipollone or the President would agree to this or any other deal with these Senators is a mystery. The hope seems to be that a White House concession would somehow produce less resistance to Mr. Trump’s nominees. And this would be useful if the President gets the chance to replace, say, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
It’s hard to believe someone could think this is plausible. Ms. Harris is running for President and will oppose any Trump nominee to the High Court. Ms. Feinstein was once more reasonable, but she and Ms. Harris were two of the worst mudslingers on the Judiciary Committee that smeared Brett Kavanaugh.
A concession to them now on nominees would rightly be seen as political weakness. It would concede influence that neither Senator has earned and set a precedent for other Democrats who would demand similar consideration. The result would be nominees who aren’t nearly as qualified, or as originalist in their thinking, as Mr. Trump’s nominees have been.
The California Democrats are demanding in particular that Mr. Trump dump Patrick Bumatay, an assistant U.S. Attorney who has specialized in drug enforcement. He also happens to be a 40-year old gay Filipino-American who believes in the original meaning of the Constitution.
Democrats are apparently frightened that at his age and with his political identity, he might eventually be Supreme Court material. What a disgrace it would be if Mr. Trump threw over a gay minority nominee because of opposition from Senate Democrats who accuse Republicans of being anti-gay and anti-minority.
Mr. Trump’s other Ninth Circuit nominees from last year are also distinguished. Mr. Collins is a lawyer in private practice who was an associate deputy attorney general and has worked on issues like child exploitation. Mr. Lee, also now in private practice, was an associate counsel to George W. Bush and has a pro bono practice for the poor and incarcerated.
Consulting Senators on judicial nominees from their home state is a courtesy, not a right. It hails from a day when most Senators operated in good faith, unlike today. Democrats are trying to cajole White House concessions now because they know it will be harder to defeat nominees with 53 GOP Senators.
Remaking the federal judiciary may be the only thing a Republican Senate can accomplish in divided government. The White House shouldn’t water down the quality of its nominees to please Democrats who won’t be helpful when their votes are really needed.
Photo: Ninth Circuit Courthouse – San Francisco, CA