The job doesn’t stop just because a candidate is on the campaign trail.
For those in the Senate, that means participating in votes and weighing in on the confirmation of Trump judicial appointees.
On Monday, the Senate voted to confirm Rossie Alston, Jr., a former judge on the Virginia Court of Appeals, to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
While he was confirmed 75-20 in a bipartisan vote, there have been some concerns from labor organizations for his previous involvement in an anti-union organization.
Here’s how the presidential candidates in the Senate voted.
Michael Bennet: Yes
Cory Booker: Yes
Kirsten Gillibrand: No
Kamala Harris: Not Voting
Amy Klobuchar: Not Voting
Bernie Sanders: No
Elizabeth Warren: Not Voting
Alston’s appointment was contested by some labor organizations. The AFL-CIO published an open letter to senators urging them to vote against the nomination because Alston was a staff attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in the 1980s.
“The Foundation’s political agenda is to cripple, if not destroy, all labor unions, both public and private, through legislation and litigation,” the letter says. “There can be no doubt that Mr. Alston’s past ties to the Foundation have colored his views of labor unions … The fact that he accepted this position in the first instance, and then remained there for five years, leaves us with no doubt that he cannot be a fair and impartial adjudicator of any legal claims involving labor unions.”
According to the foundation’s website, their stated mission is to “eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs.”
The rest of Alston’s background is mixed and hasn’t always fallen along strict ideological lines. In a 2015 fight for him to be put on Virginia’s state Supreme Court, Alston suggested LGBTQ people shouldn’t be denied service because their identities conflicted with a business owner’s religious beliefs. This statement was vague, however, because Virginia doesn’t have a law explicitly outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ people. In a 2016 ruling, he argued that same-sex couples didn’t fall under a cohabitation law in Virginia.
For this position, Alston was recommended by Virginia’s two Democratic senators.
Judges in the U.S. District Court have a direct influence on federal issues.
U.S. District Courts are the trial courts at the bottom of the federal court system. The cases they deal with involve the Constitution, other federal law or the federal government.
U.S. District Court Judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate and serve life terms. Though they don’t have quite the effect of the Supreme Court, District Court judges are responsible for applying federal law to cases.
The District Court level is where groups file injunctions against federal laws or orders, and those can have effects on federal rules. For example, many of the rulings that blocked Trump’s travel ban were made by district judges.
by Nikoel Hytrek