Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill rallied support for the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ronnie White on Wednesday and his nomination to the federal bench in eastern Missouri.
The final vote was 53-44 in favor of confirmation. McCaskill was the only senator from Missouri or Kansas who backed the nomination.
“It’s not often that the Senate has a chance to go back and fix a grievous error,” McCaskill said today in a speech on the Senate floor. “And that grievous error occurred when a good and qualified man was defeated in the U.S. Senate… There was an attack on Ronnie White for being ‘soft on crime,’ [but his record] flies in the face of that assertion.”
McCaskill, a Democrat, called White an “iconic leader” in Missouri who “handled what happened to him with as much character” as possible, and praised her colleagues for “righting this wrong” and granting White a “well-deserved place on the federal bench.”
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The Senate rejected White’s nomination for the same court seat in 1999 after White became embroiled in a bitter political fight between then-Sen. John Ashcroft and former Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan. The governor was running against Ashcroft in the 2000 election for Senate.
White, a former chief judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, was defeated in 1999 on a party-line vote of 45-54. Republicans controlled the Senate that year.
Democratic Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who was the state attorney general in 1999, on Wednesday praised the Senate’s vote.
“During his 12 years on the Missouri Supreme Court, Judge White demonstrated the judicial wisdom and respect for the law that will be strong assets for him as a federal judge,” Nixon said. “While this confirmation is long overdue, it is still a great day for justice.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights was among the groups supporting Wednesday’s vote.
“The smear campaign orchestrated to derail Mr. White’s previous nomination was one of the most unscrupulous I’ve seen in my entire career,” said President and CEO Wade Henderson in a statement.
“Then-Senator John Ashcroft used false data and misleading interpretations to baselessly assert that Mr. White was ‘soft on crime’ even though he had the support of Missouri’s leading law enforcement organizations. Ashcroft’s aggressive campaign to derail this nomination was nothing more than a campaign stunt intended to bolster his own re-election chances.”
Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, who choose not to derail White’s nomination a second time through Senate procedure, nonetheless voted against White on Wednesday.