Democrats Urge Rejection of Willett as Texan Nears Confirmation to Appeals Court

This story will be updated after the expected Senate vote.WASHINGTON -- Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s popular Twitter feed continued to haunt him Wednesday, as the Senate neared a vote on his confirmation to a powerful federal appeals court. Two Senate Democrats said his tweets prove he will discriminate against minorities if he is confirmed to the bench.Just before the vote on whether to confirm Willett to the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley called out his tweets and a 1998 memo they say proves he is not fit for the position.“He used social media to attack LGBT and transgender Americans,” Merkley said. “Offensive tweets that he believes, according to his committee testimony, were simply funny.”Despite such criticism, the Senate is expected to approve him. On Tuesday, senators voted 50-48 along party lines to end debate and move to a confirmation vote. Willett and former Texas Solicitor James Ho were nominated to the court by President Donald Trump in September. Both were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on an 11-9 vote along party lines.Willett's tweets were also the center of attention during his confirmation hearing last month. The justice has more than 100,000 followers, and told senators he didn't know if he would stop tweeting as a federal appellate judge. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said he was concerned about a 2014 tweet that read, "Go away, A-Rod," along with a Fox News story about a California law that allowed a transgender woman to join the girls' softball team."The tweet was an A-Rod focused tweet," Willett said in response, assuring Leahy that he could fairly preside over cases involving a transgender person. "I would never disparage someone that way."A-Rod is the nickname for former New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was suspended in 2014 after Major League Baseball found that he obtained illegal performance-enhancing substances.At a news conference on Wednesday, Hirono called Willett an example of Trump's “deeply ideological nominees."She said she was troubled by a 1998 internal memo that Willett wrote as a top policy advisor to then-Gov. George W. Bush, in which he said he was skeptic of the concept of “glass ceiling” for women. Willett sent the memo to suggest revisions for a gubernatorial proclamation declaring “Business Women’s Week” in Texas.“I resist the proclamation’s talk of ‘glass ceilings,’ pay equity (an allegation that some studies debunk), the need to place kids in the care of rented strangers, sexual discrimination/harassment, and the need generally for better ‘working conditions’ for women (read: more government),” the memo read, according to the Austin American-Statesman in a 2000 article.Hirono and Merkley blew up the quote to fit on a poster during the news conference.“It’s clear he has an ideological agenda that will be reflected in his decisions,” Hirono said.  Continue reading...

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