WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Wendy Vitter’s appointment to the federal bench as Republicans overcame strong opposition from Democrats who criticized the nominee’s stand against abortion.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to join Democrats and independents in opposing Vitter’s nomination in the 52-to-45 vote. It was only the second time that Collins has broken with President Donald Trump on a judicial nominee so far.
Vitter has been waiting for confirmation since the Republican president nominated her for a U.S. District Court seat in New Orleans nearly 18 months ago. A former prosecutor, Vitter has served more recently as general counsel for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, praised her “impressive legal career.”
Vitter stands as the 107th judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017, as he and McConnell have pushed to remake the courts, installing conservatives who will serve for years. Under Trump, the Republican-led Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 40 circuit court judges and 65 district court judges.
Vitter drew ire from Democrats after a judicial watchdog group found statements she had made against abortion that were not included in the extensive background disclosure forms she was required to provide to the Senate.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in April 2018, Vitter faced intense questioning from Democrats over those comments — which included claiming Planned Parenthood killed over 150,000 females a year — and her moderating an event called, “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health.”
Republicans defended Vitter, arguing that despite a few omissions she had never tried to hide her antiabortion beliefs, and Vitter told the panel that her personal views would not influence her decision-making as a judge.
Democrats remained unconvinced and have criticized Vitter for refusing to say during her confirmation hearing whether she agreed with the Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated schools.
Collins echoed those arguments in a statement after voting against Vitter on Thursday, citing the Brown exchange and the Maine senator’s view that Vitter may not be able to “put aside her personal views” on abortion that led Collins to conclude that Vitter is “not well-suited to serve on the federal bench.”
Vitter is the second Trump judicial nominee to be opposed by Collins after Chad Readler, who won confirmation in March to an appeals court covering parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. Her vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October has led national Democrats to make her race a top target in 2020.