WASHINGTON — Three Louisianans tapped by President Donald Trump for federal judicial posts cleared a key U.S. Senate committee on Thursday, leaving them one step away from confirmation.
New Orleans district judgeship nominee Wendy Vitter, Lake Charles district judgeship nominee James David Cain Jr., and Donald Washington of Lafayette, Trump's pick to run the U.S. Marshals Service, were all approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
The votes on Vitter, Cain and Washington were part of a packed agenda for the committee on Thursday headlined by William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general who previously served in that role under former President George H.W. Bush. Forty-two other nominees for federal judgeships were also up for votes in addition to Vitter and Cain.
All three Louisiana nominees are now awaiting a final confirmation votes by the full U.S. Senate. It's unclear when those votes will come, and some can wait months.
Vitter, in fact, was cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year but never made it to the full Senate for a vote. All unconfirmed nominees are returned to the White House at the end of the year; Trump renominated Vitter to the New Orleans-based federal judgeship in January.
Vitter, the current general counsel to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the wife of former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, proved the most controversial of the three Louisianans considered on Thursday.
Democrats, a number of whom blasted Wendy Vitter's outspoken record of opposition to abortion, all voted against her nomination on Thursday just as they did last year.
Democratic senators also criticized Vitter's refusal during a hearing last year to say whether she believed the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education — which outlawed racial segregation of schools — was "correctly decided."
Vitter later said she doesn't support segregation but didn't change her answer.
Her supporters defended her against charges of racism, noting that judicial nominees frequently deflect on questions about Supreme Court decisions, particularly controversial ones. But her critics argued the Brown v. Board decision is of such clear-cut importance she should've made her stance clear.
Every Republican on the panel backed Vitter, giving her enough support to advance out of committee on a 12-10 vote.
Cain sailed through with far less fanfare. No senator mentioned him during lengthy remarks and all but two senators — Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both of whom are running for president in 2020 — voted for him.
Cain, the son of former longtime Dry Prong state Sen. James David Cain Sr. and the nephew of former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain, was nominated by Trump back in August for a vacant Lake Charles-based judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
Washington, who's currently partner at the Jones Walker law firm, also passed through the committee without much opposition. If approved by the U.S. Senate, he'll take over as head of the nation's oldest law enforcement agency, which provides security at federal courthouses, transporting federal prisoners and capturing fugitives.
Washington, a West Point graduate, was picked by former President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, a 42-parish federal jurisdiction that includes Lafayette, Shreveport and Lake Charles. Washington served in that job from 2001 to 2010.