Senate confirms Neomi Rao to Circuit Court of Appeals

Senate confirms Neomi Rao to Circuit Court of Appeals

A sign at the entrance to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in Washington, D.C. Credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock
A sign at the entrance to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in Washington, D.C. Credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock

.- The Senate voted confirm Neomi Rao to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, with a 53-46 party-line vote. All Senate Republicans voted in favor of Rao’s confirmation, and no Democrats voted for her.

Rao will fill the vacancy created when President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She previously served as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and also taught law at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law. She worked in the White House counsel’s office under President George W. Bush, as well as on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

During her confirmation process, Rao came under close scrutiny for her opinions on a range of issues.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is now running for president, questioned Rao about morality during her confirmation hearings. Booker asked Rao if she believed that marriage was between a man and a woman, and if she thought that two people of the same-sex in a relationship was “immoral.” He explained it would be akin to her thinking that two African-Americans in a relationship would be immoral.

Rao said that she would follow all judicial precedent when it came to these kinds of decisions, and that she would put any of her personal beliefs “to the side” as a judge.

She has not publicly commented on her religious beliefs, although her nomination was announced during the White House celebration of the Hindu holiday Diwali.

Rao also faced questions over her college newspaper writings, in which she appeared to argue that women bore some responsibility in preventing sexual assault by how they behave. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a survivor of sexual assault, expressed reservations about supporting her nomination, but eventually voted her out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rao wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leadership where she said she regretted her editorials.

Concerns were also raised about Rao’s possible views on pro-life issues. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) threatened that he would not advance Rao out of the committee unless he was confident that she was not in favor of abortion rights. Hawley, too, eventually decided to vote her nomination out of committee.

Tags: Religious freedom, Naomi Rao, Sen. Cory Booker