Senate Democrats plan to push through President Biden’s pick for a plum judge this week, despite the nominee having a criminal record and GOP lawmakers getting little input.
The Senate The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on Thursday on the appointment of Mr. Biden from Andre Mathis of Tennessee to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearing progresses over the objection of the two Republican senators from Tennessee, who say they have been caught off guard by both the Congressional Democrats and the White House.
“The White House communicated with our offices a total of two times regarding the appointment of Mr Mathis,” the legislators wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.
They say government officials asked for little input before tapping Mr Mathis, a Memphis trial attorney who has recently come under fire for repeated driving with a suspended license. Both Mrs. Blackburn and Mr. Hagerty say the existence of a criminal record coupled with Mr Mathis’s lack of experience raises serious questions about his suitability for the position.
“Joe Biden has nominated someone with a criminal record to become a federal judge in Tennessee,” said Ms. Blackburn, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “Mr. Mathis’s rap sheet shows that he believes he is above the law, just like the president who nominated him.”
According to lawmakers, the White House first raised the topic of Mr Mathis’ appointment at a virtual meeting in June 2021. At the time, government officials said they were only considering Mr Mathis and would consult before making a decision.
The senators met with Mr Mathis for an hour in the weeks that followed, but said they felt he was not suitable for the judgeship, as he had never presided over a courtroom. Instead, they suggested several other candidates for the position.
Lawmakers heard nothing back from the White House until last November 17, when government officials announced that Mr Mathis was their candidate.
“We expected a joint discussion with the White House about the candidacy of Mr Mathis, the legislators wrote. “Instead, we got more than four months of silence.”
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the median number of days from nomination to a committee hearing before a circuit court judge was 55 days under President Trump and 76 days under President Obama. Thursday will be 57 days since Mr. Mathis.
Likewise, lawmakers say the Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on the nomination before receiving their approval, as is customary within the Senate.
In general, senators receive broad consultation before residents of their state qualify for a federal secondment. The senator’s input is even more explicit when it comes to a position with direct state jurisdiction, such as the Sixth Circuit.
Lawmakers allege that the Judiciary Committee, led by Democratic Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, did not seek their approval for Mr. Mathis until it was already planned. They further claim that the paperwork requesting their approval to proceed was retroactive and was not submitted for review until the morning of January 6.
As such, the Tennessee senators request that the Judiciary Committee postpone the hearing.
“We respectfully request that you reconsider your decision to hold a nomination hearing for Mr Mathis before we have an opportunity to meet with him and that you do not reschedule his hearing until we have been given an opportunity to fulfill our constitutional role of providing of advice and agree to the White House,” they wrote.
The majority of the Judiciary Committee staff did not return requests for comment on this story.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation background check on Mr. Mathis, executed after nomination, indicates that he repeatedly drove with a suspended driver’s license. According to federal documents, his driver’s license has been suspended no less than three times because of driver’s licenses.
During the period when his driver’s license was suspended, totaling about 20 months, the nominee continued to use his vehicle in violation of the law.
In Tennessee, the offense is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. For repeat offenders, such as Mr. Mathis, the penalty is increased.
“Not just the Biden White House refuse to interact meaningfully with senators Hagerty and Blackburn, it appears they have not properly vetted this candidate for federal justice in Tennessee,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for Mr. Hagerty. “By going through with this confirmation process, despite reasonable, outstanding questions about the nominee’s past apparent disregard for the law, Democrats are prematurely handing out a judicial nomination for life.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.