Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) laid into Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) for his vote against confirming a federal judge who was previously praised by Schumer as "outstandingly qualified" and a "great guy," calling it further proof that Schumer's votes are not based on qualifications but rather opposition to President Donald Trump.
Joseph Bianco, a New Yorker who had served as a federal court judge in the state since 2005, was confirmed for a seat on the Court of Appeals on Wednesday despite opposition from both Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.). He received support from just two Democratic senators, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Alabama's Doug Jones.
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McConnell took specific aim on Thursday at Schumer's opposition to Bianco, who Schumer labeled a "far-right nominee" earlier this year. McConnell questioned how Schumer's opinion of Bianco had shifted so far in the years since 2005, when Bianco was introduced on the Senate floor by none other than Schumer.
Schumer praised both the qualifications and character of Bianco during his 2005 introduction, saying he was "proud to support someone as outstandingly qualified and well respected as Mr. Bianco."
He pointed to praise of Bianco from former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who was at the time Schumer's chief counsel.
"In the U.S. Attorney's Office, [Bianco] supervised, among other people, my chief counsel, Preet Bharara—it is one happy family here in New York—who tells me that Mr. Bianco was among the most beloved and respected prosecutors in that office," Schumer said. "And since Preet no longer works for Joe Bianco, you can be sure he means those words, and Preet's recommendation is second to none as far as I am concerned."
Bianco was easily confirmed following Schumer's introduction.
McConnell, who has made it a priority to confirm judges despite unprecedented obstruction from Senate Democrats, appeared to especially enjoy Bianco's successful ascension to the Court of Appeals. He said the variable that led to Schumer's change of heart was Trump.
"The nominee is the same—well, actually, he's not quite the same, because now he's been a very highly regarded district judge for 13 years, so the nominee is even better," McConnell said. "But the occupant of the White House is different. In this political moment, as we know, my Democratic colleagues' commitment to the ‘outrage industrial complex' seems to crowd out reasonable judgment."
"The individual whom the Democratic Leader used to champion, and who passed by a voice vote in 2005, now receives this partisan treatment," he said. "What was once a routine matter for acclamation becomes a party-line vote. Just because this president is the one who nominated him. Fortunately, at the end of the day, the outcome is the same. Judge Joseph Bianco, along with a slate of other well-qualified nominees, is now on the job."
Under McConnell's leadership, the Senate has now successfully confirmed more than 100 of Trump's judicial nominees. Bianco was the 38th circuit court judge confirmed during Trump's first term, the fastest pace of confirmations in history, according to the Huffington Post.