Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy provided new details on Wednesday about his hesitation to support President Trump’s judicial nominees.
The Republican lawmaker's use of the Senate’s “blue slip” tool slowed Kyle Duncan’s nomination to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.
Kennedy said his “unorthodox” use of the blue slip procedure to indicate his uncertainty on Duncan’s nomination stemmed from how Trump nominated Duncan.
Under the Senate's blue slip procedure, a state's senators are consulted by the White House before a president nominates a judge from that state, regardless of party affiliation, according to a Congressional Research Service report detailing the blue slip policy. The senators historically have had the opportunity to block the nominee from receiving a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote.
Kennedy spotlighted Duncan’s paperwork submitted to the Senate at a Judiciary Committee hearing and said, “The questionnaire seems to imply that Mr. Duncan’s name came from Senator Cassidy and me, Senator Kennedy. And at least from my point of view, that is not accurate.
“I first learned about Mr. Duncan’s nomination when I received a phone call, actually a series of phone calls, from Mr. Don McGahn, who is White House counsel. And Mr. McGahn was very firm that Mr. Duncan would be the nominee to the point that he was on the scarce side in one conversation of being polite. I want to give Mr. McGahn full credit, he came back later and apologized, but his firmness he did not relent on.”
Kennedy added that he did not know Duncan well, but Kennedy said he understood Duncan to be pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and a “Washington lawyer.”
“I have received scores of phone calls from experienced, accomplished, whip-smart, pro-life, pro-religious liberty Louisiana lawyers and judges — I got another one yet this morning — who have asked me why I would support a Washington lawyer for this seat over them,” Kennedy said Wednesday. “One of those applicants asked me directly, ‘What am I, chopped liver?’ So, I’ve got to answer that question, and that’s what I’m hoping Kyle can help me with today.”
Kennedy also told reporters Tuesday that he would vote against Brett Talley, a Trump nominee to be a federal district judge in Alabama. Talley is married to McGahn’s chief of staff, Ann Donaldson. Talley did not disclose the marriage on publicly available congressional documents, according to the New York Times.
“I had no idea his connection,” Kennedy said Tuesday of Talley’s marriage to McGahn’s chief of staff, according to Politico. “And he’s never tried a lawsuit in his natural life. And he’s gonna be on the federal bench? Give me a break. A break. It is embarrassing. And I think the president of the United States is getting some very, very bad advice.”
On Tuesday, Kennedy voted against a federal appeals court nominee who was confirmed to the D.C. Court of Appeals, Greg Katsas. Kennedy voted for Katsas in the Judiciary Committee before opposing him on the floor.