Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) called out his Republican colleagues on Thursday for what he called their “racist treatment of President Joe Biden’s court picks”, saying their word choice and unusual hostility toward nominees of color has been “demeaning” and “offensive.”
The California senator made his comments as the committee was preparing to vote on advancing a Black nominee, Andre Mathis, who is President Biden’s pick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit based in Tennessee.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who opposes Mathis and has complained that the White House “didn’t consult with her enough” on his nomination to a court seat in her state, raised eyebrows last month when she said she had concerns with Mathis and referenced his “rap sheet” of old speeding tickets, a suggestion of a criminal record when there is none. “He has a rap sheet with a laundry list of citations, including multiple failures to appear in court,” Blackburn said at the time. “In Tennessee, we expect our judges to respect the law.”
There are many in Washington who are solely focused on defeating the opposition out of pure partisan self-interest, in order to amass power at any cost. That is not what democracy is meant to be about. We are here to serve the American people and form a more perfect union.
— Alex Padilla (@AlexPadilla4CA) February 11, 2022
In fact, Mathis’ “rap sheet” — a term for a person’s criminal history that stems from the acronym for Record of Arrests and Prosecutions – was related to three speeding tickets he got more than 10 years ago, one of which was for going 5 miles over the speed limit. His driver’s license was temporarily suspended when he forgot to pay them and subsequently did not show up to court.
“It’s not lost on me that nominees of color have been treated differently in our hearings,” Padilla told Republicans in a Judiciary Committee hearing today.
“Whether it’s insinuations of a ‘rap sheet’ or hostility about their qualifications or views."
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) February 10, 2022
Padilla said Thursday that it was “particularly troubling” to see the way Mathis was treated by Blackburn in last month’s hearing. “Let’s be clear: Mr. Mathis is not a career criminal or a violent felon, as the question implied. He has never been arrested or convicted of a crime,” he said, as Blackburn sat feet away from him on the dais. “The underlying issue being commented on was traffic violations dating over a decade ago. Whether it was unintentional or intentional, questions and tones like what I heard during his hearing are demeaning, offensive and just plain wrong.”
"If we're able to massage the rules of the Senate to advance critical issues like voter protection and defending voting rights, things like an aggressive climate change agenda…then I don't worry about losing the majority in the Senate…it's worth the risk."
– Sen. Alex Padilla pic.twitter.com/kIttcz9CDK
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) January 10, 2022
Several Republicans voiced their objections, but Padilla wasn’t the only member of the committee who commented on the way that President Biden’s court picks, most of whom have been women and people of color, have been treated differently by Republicans. “I worry about the charges made against some nominees, which seem to be, in some cases, thinly veiled charges because they are a woman or a person of color,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the longest-serving member of the Senate and a former longtime chairman of the Judiciary Committee.