Pence breaks Senate deadlock on judge for first time in U.S. history

Mike Pence. Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Dec. 12 (UPI) — Mike Pence made history Tuesday and became the first U.S. vice president to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm a federal judge.

Pence, the Senate president, cast the vote to break a 50-50 tie for the nomination of Jonathan Kobes to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate voted down party lines except for Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who’s vowed to oppose all judicial appointments until legislation is passed that protects special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

President Donald Trump nominated Kobes earlier this year, but the American Bar Association gave him a “not qualified” rating,” saying he didn’t submit enough writing samples to prove his competence for the position. The ABA said he had “neither the requisite experience nor evidence of his ability to fulfill the scholarly writing required of a United States Circuit Court Judge.”

Liberal and civil rights groups raised concerns about Kobes’ history of representing anti-abortion health centers pro bono, while also sitting on a Christian foster care agency accused of discriminating against LGBT couples.

The only other time a vice president has intervened with a judicial confirmation was when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush broke a tie to oppose reconsidering a nominee who had already been confirmed.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted recently that Kobes isn’t suited for the position.

“Circuit courts are where most Americans receive final justice,” she said. “They deserve to have qualified, experienced judges presiding.”

Republicans have confirmed 30 appeals judges so far in Trump’s first two years in office.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the ABA didn’t give Kobes a “fair shake.”

“Unfortunately, the American Bar Association is again politicizing a nomination to the 8th Circuit,” Grassley said. “For the second time in less than one year, the ABA has rated an 8th Circuit nominee ‘not qualified.’

“I see no basis for concluding that the absence of written work product means Mr. Kobes is ‘not qualified.'”

For the biggest judicial appointment of the year — the controversial confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — the ABA gave a “well qualified” rating and maintained that rating after Kavanaugh’s emotional testimony before the Senate judiciary committee to refute sexual assault accusations.


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