A Biden appellate court nominee’s gun control representation was scrutinized by Republicans on Wednesday as bipartisan firearms safety legislation moves forward in the Senate.
The brief exchange on guns was the a tense moment in a largely smooth Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Rachel Bloomekatz, who’s nominated to the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Republican Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee raised Bloomekatz’s work with Everytown for Gun Safety, which the solo-practitioner said was a co-counsel in some of her cases. One, according to her Senate Judiciary questionnaire, involved representing parents challenging a school district’s plan in Ohio to arm teachers.
Kennedy noted the group’s support for banning assault weapons and grew frustrated with her responses on whether she agreed. “Please don’t dodge my questions,” Kennedy said. “Do you believe we should ban assault weapons?”
“Senator, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on policy issues, especially issues that may come before the court,” Bloomekatz said.
Blackburn, whose state lies within the Sixth Circuit, asked how Bloomekatz could remain neutral on gun issues given her past work .
Sixth Circuit precedent and US Supreme Court precedent, such as District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago affirming gun rights, would guide her if she were confirmed, Bloomekatz responded.
Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg, who serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board.
The questions about Bloomekatz’s work came as bipartisan gun control legislation moves forward in the Senate. On Tuesday, senators voted to advance the legislation prompted by public outcry after mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo and an elementary school in Texas.
The measure aims to improve background checks, secure schools, and give states money to combat gun violence. Enactment would be considered the biggest breakthrough on the issue federally in decades.
Bloomekatz is a UCLA Law school graduate and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. She also was an assistant attorney general in Boston, and a former principal at Gupta Wessler and an associate at Jones Day before that.
Bloomekatz is a rare Biden judicial nominee from a state represented by a Republican and a Democrat in the Senate.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced Bloomekatz at the hearing, highlighting her support from across the political spectrum. A bipartisan group of 25 Ohio appellate lawyers wrote to the committee in support of her nomination.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Wednesday he was undecided on support for her nomination and would make a decision after reviewing her hearing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also questioned D.C. Circuit nominee Florence Pan, D.C. District nominee Ana Reyes, and Elizabeth Wilson Hanes, who’s nominated to the Eastern District of Virginia.
Separately, the Senate voted, 50-48, to proceed with the nominations of Arianna Freeman for the Pennsylvania-based Third Circuit and Hernan Vera, 50-47, for the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, after the Judiciary Committee deadlocked on advancing them to the full chamber.
—With assistance from Michaela Ross and Brandon Lee