Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday voted against a nomination by the Trump administration to fill a federal judgeship — and signaled that it’s because the nominee is white.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor that the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum, a white lawyer who is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Greenville, South Carolina, “speaks to the overall lack of diversity in President Trump’s selections for the federal judiciary.”
Quattlebaum’s nomination, Schumer said, replaces two black judges from South Carolina whom the Obama administration nominated to fill the position — which The Post and Courier notes has long been vacant.
“It is long past time that the judiciary starts looking a lot more like the America it represents,” Schumer said. “Having a diversity of views and experience on the federal bench is necessary for the equal administration of justice.”
The senator said that with Quattlebaum’s nomination, the Trump administration was “taking a giant step backwards” in terms of diversity.
However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday it was actually Schumer’s vote against Quattlebaum that was “a massive step backward.”
While Schumer “is not a racist,” Graham tweeted, “this was an absolutely shameful reason to vote against a very qualified nominee like Marvin Quattlebaum.” He added, “Voting against a highly qualified nominee because of the color of his skin does nothing to bring our country and nation together.”
Sen. Tim Scott, also a Republican serving South Carolina and the GOP’s sole black senator, tweeted, “Perhaps Senate Democrats should be more worried about the lack of diversity on their own staffs than attacking an extremely well-qualified judicial nominee from the great state of South Carolina.”
Schumer asserted that the only reason Quattlebaum was nominated for the unoccupied position was because the state’s Republican senators didn’t return their “blue slips” — a blue form used by senators to voice approval or disapproval for a home state nominee — for Obama nominees Alison Lee and Don Beatty in 2013.
Democrats have said that Republicans used blue slips to block about 18 of Obama’s nominations, arguing the denial of a hearing for a nominee without two blue slips was fine with Republicans then. Democrats said the policy shouldn’t change just because the person who sits in the White House is different.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., countered on Twitter that Lee’s nomination “was withdrawn because of a significant bond issue” and Beatty eventually was appointed as the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court.
Quattlebaum was ultimately confirmed to the district judgeship on Thursday, 69-29.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.