WASHINGTON — Senate leaders are clashing over a Louisville attorney and former blogger picked by President Trump for an appellate court post, with Republicans charging obstructionism and Dems calling the nominee anti-LGBT and anti-woman.
Trump nominated John K. Bush, a partner and co-chairman of the litigation department at the Louisville office of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, on May 8 to serve as a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush’s nomination was pushed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday by an 11-9 party-line vote. He survived a procedural vote in the full Senate today 51-48, another party-line vote with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent.
The attorney penned more than 400 posts on the “Elephants in the Bluegrass” blog run by his wife, including op-eds criticizing the State Department’s wording change to allow same-sex couples to be listed as parents on passport applications, calling the Dred Scott decision upholding slavery and the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion “the two greatest tragedies in our country,” and referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as “Mama Pelosi.”
At his confirmation hearing last month, Bush told Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that he would uphold Roe and “apply the law of the Supreme Court.”
“Blogging is a political activity,” he said. “It is not appropriate to bring politics to the bench, and if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will not bring politics to the bench.” He said in written responses to the committee that much of his blogging “used flippant or intemperate language that does not accurately reflect my demeanor or legal abilities.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Bush, who co-founded the Louisville chapter of the Federalist Society, about a statement on the Federalist Society’s website that the legal profession is “strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society.”
“I don’t know what the Federalist Society was referring to in that statement,” Bush replied.
The nominee called his remarks about Pelosi “a regrettable reference to her leadership position”; pressed on why he regarded Roe as a tragedy, Bush responded that “it divided our country.”
On Monday, 27 LGBT organizations sent a letter to senators opposing Bush and Damien Schiff, a California attorney nominated for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, on the basis that “that their views on civil rights issues are fundamentally at odds with the notion that LGBT people are entitled to equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law” with “public statements and writings [that] have repeatedly demonstrated not only an extraordinary lack of judgment but also plain contempt for the rights of LGBT Americans, people living with HIV, women, and other vulnerable populations.” They cited a 2005 speech Bush gave to a private Louisville club in which his notes quote Hunter S. Thompson: “I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I’ve learned—this is no town to be giving people the impression you’re some kind of faggot.”
On the Senate floor today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lauded Bush as “a man of integrity and considerable ability” who “will do an outstanding job on the Sixth Circuit,” and read endorsements from legal colleagues of Bush who reside on the other end of the political spectrum.
“More than 100 attorneys and law professors from around the country have written in support of his nomination. Nearly one-third of these supporters are Democrats,” McConnell said. “They are confident that he understands the role of a judge, which is to fairly consider the arguments of both sides in a case and then to decide that case based on the law, and nothing else. Indeed, it is precisely because of his firm belief in the rule of law that they strongly support his nomination, despite the fact that he and they may hold different political and policy views.”
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Bush “not fit for the austere office of a circuit court judge.”
“He’s made some extremely troubling comments about the rights of women and the rights of the LGBTQ community. He’s employed anti-gay slurs in his speech and his writings. He has disparaged a woman’s right to choose, drawing an offensive and false moral equivalency between choice and slavery,” Schumer said in floor remarks. “How can my Republican friends vote to elevate to the Sixth Circuit a man who has said things like this?
“He clearly lacks the temperament required of a circuit judge, and I urge all of my colleagues to vote no on cloture and no on the nomination.”