WASHINGTON (CN) - A former candidate for Nebraska attorney general who belongs to the Federalist Society and once ran on an "avidly pro-life" platform with vows to repeal Roe v. Wade told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday he would put aside his personal political views and apply Supreme Court precedent if confirmed to the federal bench.
"I think as I noted in response to Senator Sasse, there is a difference between running for office and taking positions on issues of the day, which I did and which the members of this committee did too when they ran for office and serving as a judge in a federal court," U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska nominee Brian Buescher said Wednesday.
Buescher lost a fractured Republican primary with 25 percent of the vote in 2014, but comments he made on the campaign trail about abortion now figure to play a key role as he attempts to earn confirmation.
During the campaign, Buescher described himself as an "avidly pro-life person" and told an anti-abortion group that he believes abortion should only be legal in cases where it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother. He also told the group he would support "reversing or changing" the Supreme Court's holding in Roe v. Wade.
When faced with questions about the comments on Wednesday, Buescher said he would not have trouble applying the court's landmark precedent if confirmed to the federal district court.
But Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told Buescher she finds it hard to believe he would be able to set aside views he so clearly endorsed during his run for office.
"I realize that you say that when you were a candidate you articulated certain views, which I assume were strongly held views, and they don't suddenly go away just because you become a judge," Hirono said.
A member of the conservative Federalist Society, Buescher currently chairs the agribusiness litigation practice at the Omaha, Neb., firm Kutak Rock. He is also a partner in his family's cattle business, according to the questionnaire he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Wednesday's hearing was lightly attended and the committee had to wrap up more quickly than usual so senators could attend an all-senators briefing on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
That meant U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifton Corker, who is up for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, faced few questions from senators during the hearing.
In response to one of the few questions he did field, he told Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., his move to the bench as a magistrate judge illustrated to him the fundamental difference between being an advocate and being a judge.
"Since I've been on the bench for the last three-and-a-half years, of course I have to step back and say it's not my job to further any personal policy preferences that I have but to decide fairly and evenhandedly and apply the law to the facts and situations that are at hand," Corker said. "And that's the most important thing as a judge that we do. We are fair and we treat everyone with respect and so if I'm honored enough to be confirmed, that's the legacy that I want to leave is a legacy of fairness.
Corker currently works as a magistrate judge on the same court to which he is now nominated. He spent the decade before that running his own law firm in Johnson City, Tenn.