WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a longtime federal judge to a seat on the Second Circuit, over the objections of both of his home-state senators.
Judge Joseph Bianco has sat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York since 2006, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush after spending time as deputy assistant attorney general and senior counsel at the Justice Department.
Bianco also worked for a decade as a federal prosecutor in New York City and spent a year as counsel at the New York firm Debevoise & Plimpton.
His time on the federal bench did not generate much opposition from Democrats, though he did face questions about a 2014 decision in which he held the Civil Rights Act does not cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Second Circuit reversed the holding last year and Bianco explained to senators he made the decision based on then-binding precedent.
Much of the opposition to Bianco’s nomination instead came from the process by which he came to the Senate, with neither of New York’s senators supporting him for the position.
That would have been fatal to previous judicial nominees due to the tradition known as the blue slip, under which a nominee needed the support of both of his or her home-state senators before moving forward in the confirmation process before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chaired the Judiciary Committee during the first two years of the Trump administration, said he would no longer allow the objections of a home-state senator to hold up nominations to federal circuit courts, which hear cases from multiple states. Grassley still allowed a home-state senator to hold up nominees to federal district courts.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has continued Grassley’s policy.
As a result, Bianco was confirmed on a 54-42 vote Wednesday, despite not getting the vote of either Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer or Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are both Democrats.