Senate Narrowly Confirms Trump Judicial Nominee, Despite Poor Rating

Dec 12, 2018
Originally published on December 12, 2018 7:49 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As the year comes to a close, the Senate has been confirming judges to the federal bench at a breathtaking pace, and the most recent Trump judicial nominee was approved with almost no room to spare.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The judiciary Jonathan A. Kobes of South Dakota to be United States Circuit Judge for the 8th Circuit.

CORNISH: NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The vote was so close to confirm Jonathan Kobes to a U.S. appeals court that Vice President Mike Pence took the rare step of breaking the tie.

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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: On this vote, the yeas are 50. The nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative.

JOHNSON: Legal experts say that appears to be a first. In the end, the 44-year-old Kobes won a lifetime seat on the 8th Circuit Appeals Court even though the American Bar Association rated him not qualified for the job.

Kobes is a former aide to Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota. He also worked as a federal prosecutor after graduating from Harvard Law School. But Democrats say he has little experience with appeals and has tried only six cases. The left-leaning Alliance for Justice says the Kobes nomination demonstrates how the White House puts ideology and Republican Party ties over credentials. Kobes becomes the 30th federal appeals court judge to secure confirmation under President Trump. The record-breaking pace is a significant victory for conservatives and for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's made confirming judges his highest priority. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.