A perfectly reasonable question has hovered over U.S. Sen. John Kennedy's recent headline-grabbing critiques of a handful of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees: Sure, he can make them squirm, but would he actually break from his party and vote no?
It's starting to look like that's not the right question.
Kennedy has indeed cast one "no" vote, against Gregory Katsas, a nominee for the Washington, DC appeals court that hears many matters related to the administration. His criticism was that Katsas now works in the White House and has helped craft policies that the court is likely to review. Just as important, if not more: Katsas had enough votes to get Senate confirmation regardless, so Kennedy was able to make a statement without derailing a presidential nomination.
Where he has been strikingly successful is knocking out bad nominees before they even get to a vote.
WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kennedy hammered one of President Donald Trump’s nominees for a feder…
Kennedy's vocal skepticism over two objectively dreadful nominees and a brutal committee interrogation of a third helped torpedo their bids. The White House withdrew support for district court nominees Brett Talley, who had no relevant experience and a weird background that included apparently blogging in support of the Klan, and for Jeff Mateer, who had labeled transgender children part of Satan's plan. Over the weekend, Federal Election Commissioner Matthew S. Peterson pulled out of contention for a district court seat in Washington, D.C. after a video of Kennedy schooling him over basic courtroom procedure went viral.
Kennedy did come around on yet another nominee, Kyle Duncan, for an appeals court seat in New Orleans. He probably wouldn't have been able to derail this one, given that Duncan is a popular figure in politically powerful religious right circles, although he made his pique at not being sufficiently consulted known.
WASHINGTON — A Trump judicial nominee who came under withering criticism after a grilling la…
The man who didn't do the consulting was White House Counsel Don McGahn, who, it turns out, has close ties with some of the nominees Kennedy's opposed. Katsas works for him, as does Talley's wife, which Talley didn't disclose. Peterson served with him on the FEC.
Kennedy has made a point of saying his issue isn't with Trump himself, but McGhan is another story. Here the senator has been up front in his take that Trump is getting "very, very bad advice" on judicial nominations.
People who followed Kennedy's long career as state treasurer know he has a habit of identifying suitable foils, even if they're in his own party (case in point: Bobby Jindal). Looks like he's found one up in Washington.