May 6, 2020

D.C. Circuit nominee sails through confirmation hearing

That is particularly true, the Democrats said, for a nominee who said the Supreme Court made an “indefensible decision” to uphold the 2010 health care law known as the Affordable Care Act that many now depend on to have insurance.

“Why, in the middle of a pandemic, should we support a nominee who would take away health care from millions of Americans, including those with preexisting conditions?” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat.

The 37-year-old McConnell protégé became a district court judge in the majority leader’s home state of Kentucky only a few months before Trump picked him to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That spot won’t actually be open until a judge officially retires in September, Democrats pointed out.

Walker, under questioning from Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said comments he made about that Supreme Court decision as recently as his investiture ceremony in March were a “lighthearted allusion” and a “tongue-in-cheek” reference to the justices who dissented in that divisive 5-4 decision.

One of those dissenters was Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom Walker clerked at the time of that 2012 decision. Walker also said he wrote about the health care law as an academic, that criticism of a legal decision is not about any health care policy, and that as a judge he would follow the decision as binding precedent.

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