Federal appeals court nominee John K. Bush told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that his political beliefs, previously expressed in blog posts, would not affect his approach to judging.
"Blogging is a political activity," Bush said during hearings on his 6th Circuit Court of Appeals nomination Wednesday. "It is not appropriate to bring politics to the bench. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will not bring politics to the bench."
Bush has come under fire for posts he authored at "Elephants in the Bluegrass" under the byline "G. Morris." Bush wrote political commentary on the blog about presidential politics and judicial activism that prompted the left-leaning Alliance for Justice to call for him to be disqualified.
Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota raised concerns about Bush's posts during Wednesday's hearings.
"I think we have to, when we're confirming judges, look at judgment," Franken said Wednesday. "In my mind, using my judgment, to confirm someone to the circuit court who felt free to blog posts and can't answer how he decides whether to cite a source or not, whether it's credible or not, that's disturbing to me."
But some Republicans aided Bush by downplaying the Democrats' worries.
"Mr. Bush you stand accused of blogging, thank goodness you don't stand accused of tweeting," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Bush was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell because Kentucky's other senator, Rand Paul, was unable to attend given the morning's shooting at a Republican baseball practice. Paul was not hurt. McConnell also appeared to reference Bush's controversial blog posts that have fueled liberal criticism, and said that Bush's political views have not diminished the "esteem in which his colleagues hold him."
But one Republican, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, told Bush he was "not impressed" by Bush's blog posts before Kennedy yielded his time.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also considered the nomination of Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Newsom faced less invective from Senate Democrats than Bush, although Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that Newsom had a connection to the right-leaning Federalist Society.
Newsom and Bush are both nominees without experience as judges that are looking to join the federal bench. Newsom noted Wednesday he thought the "key attribute for a good judge is impartiality."
"If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will take off the advocate's hat and put on the judge's hat," Newsom said.
Bush, in response to a question from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, said his life had already begun to change as a result of his nomination.
"I've taken a sticker off my truck ... because I realized I've got to be impartial," Bush told the Judiciary Committee. "[Joining the federal bench is] a bit daunting but I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity if confirmed."
Both Bush and Newsom have come under new attacks from liberal groups in recent days. The left-leaning Alliance for Justice has criticized Newsom's ties to the Federalist Society and Bush's pseudonymous blog posts. Whether Republicans such as Kennedy share liberal and Democratic concerns about Bush and Newsom's qualifications could determine the fate of the federal appeals court nominees' confirmation efforts.