Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks with Justin Walker before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Walker's nomination for U.S. district judge for the Western District of Kentucky on July 31, 2019. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks with Justin Walker before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Walker's nomination for U.S. district judge for the Western District of Kentucky on July 31, 2019. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Instead of Vote on Covid-19 Relief, Senate GOP Confirms 'Anti-Healthcare' McConnell Protégé Justin Walker to Lifetime Judgeship

"Another shameful step in the McConnell/Trump takeover of our judiciary."

Jessica Corbett

In spite of public pressure on Congress to prioritize providing more relief to Americans impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday advanced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump's right-wing takeover of the federal judiciary by confirming Justin Walker to U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Walker is a U.S. district judge in Kentucky who previously interned for McConnell (R-Ky.) and clerked for Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Advocacy groups against Walker's nomination to the nation's second-highest court highlighted his record of opposing the Affordable Care Act and warned that his confirmation "in the middle of a pandemic is beyond dangerous. It's deadly."

The 51-42 vote to confirm the 38-year-old to a lifetime appointment fell mostly along party lines; seven senators did not vote and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who faces a tough reelection in November, was the only Republican to side with all the Democrats present and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in opposing Walker.

"Every Senate Republican who voted for Walker knowingly abandoned the health and well-being of their constituents, and we won't forget it," Alliance for Justice declared after the vote. The group was among those that pressured senators to #StopWalker, citing his record on healthcare and the current crisis.

"Walker praised Kavanaugh for writing a 'roadmap' to gut the ACA and called the SCOTUS decision upholding the ACA 'catastrophic," Alliance for Justice tweeted shortly before his confirmation. "This is not what protecting our healthcare looks like."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) made a similar point in a floor speech earlier this week. Sharing a video of his remarks on Twitter, Brown called out McConnell for pushing through a vote on his protégé "instead of helping families stay safe" during a pandemic.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, has also spoken out against Walker over the past several months. On Thursday, she noted that his confirmation came as the Senate continued to ignore calls for police reform, a vote on House-approved Covid-19 relief, or important civil rights bills.

Walker will fill a seat on the federal appeals court in D.C. held by Judge Thomas Griffith, who is retiring in September. As Common Dreams reported last month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) indicated during a radio interview that he is joining McConnell's campaign to push older federal judges to retire early as a way to ensure that Trump will be able to nominate their successors before the November election.

"This is an historic opportunity. We've put over 200 federal judges on the bench. I think one in five federal judges are Trump appointees," Graham, who chairs the chamber's judiciary committee, told radio host Hugh Hewitt. "So if you're a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status, now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center."

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted Thursday that in addition to holding a vote on Walker, McConnell also moved forward with another Trump nominee—Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Cory Wilson, whose confirmation vote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is expected next week.

"Wilson has a record of deep hostility to civil rights," the group tweeted. "The country is calling for equal justice, and Wilson's nomination is antithetical to that. #StopWilson."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Report Reveals Corporate Capture of Global Biodiversity Efforts Ahead of Summit

"Their 'solutions' are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment," said one Friends of the Earth campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

UN, EU Officials Demand Probe Over Extrajudicial Killings of Palestinians

"In the last 72 hours alone 10 Palestinians were killed by ISF in what appears to be an excessive use of lethal force," the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians noted after the killing of 22-year-old Ammar Mufleh by Israeli security forces.

Brett Wilkins ·

Supply Chains Woes Didn't Slow Down Global Arms Sales, Analysis Shows

Responding to the report, the U.S.-based group Win Without War said that "our economy prioritizes profits over people, leading to unnecessary violence and death. It makes us less safe."

Brett Wilkins ·

After US Prevents Railway Strike, South Korea Moves to Crush Truckers

"Part of why internationalism is so essential is because of how many international labor struggles can be used to demonstrate to U.S. workers what type of power we have to shut things down," said one labor advocate on the heels of a similar U.S. rail dispute.

Julia Conley ·

Groups Warn Pelosi, Schumer Against Allowing Manchin 'Dirty Deal' in Pentagon Spending Bill

"This obvious fossil fuel giveaway would devastate communities and set back efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe," said one campaigner.

Jon Queally ·

Common Dreams Logo