The White House has boasted that President Donald Trump is “transforming our judiciary” by appointing “a historic” number of federal judges. This week, he added one more.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 49–44 to confirm Trump nominee Sarah Pitlyk as a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, the Associated Press reports. The vote came almost entirely along partisan lines, with all Democrats voting against and only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (ME), siding with Democrats, according to Law & Crime.
A rocky road to confirmation
Pitlyk’s nomination was controversial in more ways than one: she is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and has strong ties to the pro-life movement.
The new federal judge has also worked for the Thomas Moore Society, an organization that describes itself as “a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.”
“I stand in a long line of other people who have sat at this table who have had history in advocacy, or in an issue-related advocacy, or in politics and who have become very distinguished jurists,” Pitlyk asserted during her confirmation hearings.
But for Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), that wasn’t a good enough answer.
“You’ve been more than just an advocate for the anti-choice agenda,” he complained, according to The Washington Times. “You filed a brief arguing that life begins at conception. You’ve defended Iowa’s abortion ban. You worked to defund Planned Parenthood.”
A divided Senate
And Blumenthal wasn’t alone in his criticism. Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, suggested that Pitlyk didn’t have the right experience for the job.
“As we go out to hire people to represent us to engage them to represent us, the first thing we look for is experience,” the senator told Pitlyk. “You’re asking for a lifetime appointment as a trial court judge. There are many things I think you would be excellent at, your background says that. This is not one of them.”
The pro-abortion group Alliance for Justice joined in on the attacks, too, publishing a statement on its website that read in part: “Women who walk into her courtroom cannot have confidence that Pitlyk will fairly and correctly apply critical Supreme Court precedents and enforce essential constitutional rights.”
However, Pitlyk also had her defenders. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R) argued that the American Bar Association’s characterization of Pitlyk as “not qualified” was merely a reflection of the group’s support for abortion — an assessment that was shared by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who called the group “a partisan mouthpiece.”
“I’m troubled for what they have done,” Hawley added, according to Breitbart.