Senate Confirms Appointment of Neomi Rao to DC Circuit Court of Appeal to Replace Kavanaugh


The Senate has just confirmed Neomi Rao, a judicial nominee who was looking for her previous writings on sexual assault, to occupy the seat of the DC Circuit Court, previously occupied by Brett Kavanaugh.

Rao, the current Trump administration regulator, is widely regarded as a rising star in conservative legal circles and could be among those contemplated by the Supreme Court. During her confirmation hearing in February, she was heavily questioned about some of her articles on sexual assault published in the college, many of which appeared to blame the victims.

"If she drinks to the point where she can not choose anymore, well, getting there was part of her choice," Rao wrote in one piece.

The remarks of Rao deputies have been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who spoke publicly about his own aggression, and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Rao stressed during her confirmation that "no one should blame a victim", although she claimed that women could take certain steps to "ensure that they are not a victim" .

Given the dissatisfaction of many senators with his answers, Rao finally wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to apologize even more for his earlier writings. "No woman or man should be a victim of sexual violence, no matter what her clothes and her consumption of alcohol," she wrote. "I'm sorry for anything in my college writings that say otherwise."

In addition to concerns over his earlier writings, Rao also received criticism from Republican Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was concerned that she was not sufficiently anti-abortion in her positions. After a meeting with her, however, he finally supported his candidacy.

Who is Neomi Rao?

Rao, 45, has devoted much of his career to regulatory policy. She is currently a director of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants and the first American from South Asia to sit on the DC circuit.

As the head of OIRA, she had an important role to play in how the Trump administration attempted to implement its regulatory reform program. OIRA is a little-known body within the Office of Management and Budget, which has broad jurisdiction over how federal agencies apply their rules.

As Leif Fredrickson wrote in an editorial for the Washington Post, the office is one that few know, despite its extended scope:

The office can effectively develop, delay and even remove critical regulations proposed by executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Health and Social Services.

Rao, as head of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, supported the Trump government's removal of the Title IX protections for sexual assault victims on university campuses. These rules would reduce the mandatory reporting requirements currently facing institutions and would require live hearings on allegations of sexual assault, during which the accusers could even be questioned by a representative of their abusers.

Democrats argue that Rao, as head of this office, played a major role in overturning the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education. They also warned that she could theoretically decide on the merits of these regulations if she became a judge of the DC circuit.

"The DC circuit has most of the problems with federal regulation," said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "If confirmed, Ms. Rao may be able to settle cases involving many of the regulations she personally worked on."

Rao had previously refused to recuse herself from cases that may involve Trump administration rules that she had overseen, however.

Prior to working for the Trump administration, Rao was a law professor at George Mason University, where she founded the State Administrative Studies Center. She has also worked as a board member for Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, as associate counsel for President George W. Bush, and as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

It is the latest in a wave of conservative nominations that Republicans are trying to push through at a record pace.

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