Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Neomi Rao was given and affirmative vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. She is President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Dictrict of Columbia.
Rao cleared the committee on a party-line vote of 12 to 10. Her nomination will now head to the full Senate.
Earlier in the week, Rao’s nomination seemed to face an uncertain future as questions about her suitability arose on both sides of the aisle and it was not clear if she could garner enough support from committee members.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a freshman senator from Missouri, raised concerns about Roa’s judicial philosophy, particularly her views on judicial activism and substantive due process. But on Thursday morning, Hawley issued a statement saying he had met one-on-one with Rao on Wednesday, and said that he was no longer opposed to her advancing to the full Senate.
“In our discussion, Ms. Rao said she would interpret the Constitution according to its text, structure and history, not according to changing social and political understandings,” said Hawley.
“She said the text of the Constitution is fixed and the meaning must follow that fixed text,” he added, and that “she rejected the idea of ‘common law constitutionalism.’”
Hawley also said he was pleased that Rao told him she did not think there was textual support for substantive due process in the Constitution.
Concerns about Rao's commitment to an originalist approach to the Consitution also reflected anxieties of pro-life campaigners who had concerns she may be philosophically sympathetic to a consitutional right to abortion, rather than merely committed to defering to it as established precedent.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) was also concerned with Rao, particularly her college newspaper op-eds concerning sexual assault and women. In some of the writing’s Rao made observations about the context in which assaults could take place which some observers said came close to victim-blaming.
Ernst, herself a survivor of sexual assault, said that she found the writings to be “abhorrent,” but also said she had since been satisfied about Rao’s suitability and agreed to vote her through to a final confirmation vote in the Senate.
During Rao’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is now running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, quizzed her about her views on morality, gay marriage, and sin.
Booker asked Rao to comment about whether she believed marriage only could exist between a man and a woman, or if two she thought men in a sexual relationship was immoral. Rao declined insisted that it was not her place asa judicial candidate or judge to opinion on the nature of sin, and said she would follow precedent if she were confirmed to the bench.
Currently, Rao is the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and has taught law at George Mason University. She previously served in the White House counsel’s office under president George H.W. Bush and as a staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The final confirmation vote is expected in March.