Judicial Nominations

Wendy Vitter, President Donald Trump's nominee to be a District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, gives testimony during a U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. At right, listening, is her husband, former Senator David Vitter. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

WASHINGTON — It’s taken nearly a year and a half, but Wendy Vitter should know by the end of Thursday whether she has a lifetime seat on the federal bench.

And the cards appear to be strongly in Vitter’s favor, despite pushback from Senate Democrats who have spent the past week denouncing the former Orleans Parish assistant district attorney as a right-wing extremist.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Vitter, the wife of former Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, to a New Orleans-based U.S. District Court vacancy.

Her nomination was briefly derailed last year, and the process had to restart in January when the new congressional term began.

Vitter, 58, has the backing of both of Louisiana’s Republican U.S. senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, who have lauded her qualifications through the process.

“Wendy Vitter is extremely qualified and I look forward to voting for her,” Cassidy said Wednesday after several of his Democratic colleagues raised questions on the Senate floor about Vitter’s positions on abortion and school segregation. “It’s a shame the liberal left is using fabricated political smears to suppress the voice of a strong conservative woman."

Vitter, who has been general counsel to the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012, has a long history of anti-abortion activism that has become a sticking point for some Democrats and left-leaning groups during her judicial vetting.

Senate Democrats this week have taken turns speaking out against the nomination, pointing to her anti-abortion record, as well as her refusal in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to say whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling ending racial segregation in schools was "correctly decided."

Her supporters have noted nominees often avoid such declarations on Supreme Court decisions.

But that hasn’t quieted her critics. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer included Vitter on his list Wednesday of examples of nominees who are “hard-right ideologues who will do damage to this country for generations.”

“She once promoted the idea that contraceptives cause cancer and claimed that Planned Parenthood kills 150,000 women annually,” said Schumer, D-New York. “She also refused to acknowledge that Brown v. Board was correctly decided, saying instead the decision was correct with the benefit of hindsight, whatever that means.”

“We understand the president and Republicans will want conservatives, but hard-right, narrow ideologues who show no understanding or sympathy for people who don't look like them or pray like them or marry like them?” Schumer continued. “It's not hard. If you need the benefit of hindsight to understand that Brown v. Board of Education, which brought an end to school segregation and led to the end of American apartheid was correctly decided, you shouldn't be a federal judge.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, also took aim Wednesday at Vitter’s nomination, calling it “yet another step extreme politicians are taking to undermine women's rights and access to health care.”

Democrats have seized upon Vitter's failure to disclose on a Judiciary Committee questionnaire past public remarks at anti-abortion events and at least one political campaign ad appearance. Nominees are expected to provide extensive information about past public statements when filling out the questionnaires.

Vitter omitted a 2013 panel she led for Louisiana Right to Life dubbed "Abortion Hurts Women" and a speech she gave at a 2013 protest at the site of a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic in Uptown New Orleans.

“Someone like Wendy Vitter cannot be trusted with a lifetime seat on a federal bench,” Murray said.


Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.