WASHINGTON ― In the middle of a national reckoning on racial justice, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance a judicial nominee with a long record of hostility toward civil and voting rights.
Every Republican on the committee voted to send the nomination of Cory Wilson to the full Senate for his confirmation vote. Every Democrat opposed him.
Wilson, 49, is up for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Democrats and civil rights groups are strongly opposed to Wilson, a Mississippi state judge and former state legislator, for a number of reasons. He has described the Affordable Care Act as “illegitimate,” “perverse” and “liberal-utopia-dictated health care.” He supports ”the complete and immediate reversal” of Roe v. Wade. He called same-sex marriage “a pander to liberal interest groups” and ”an attempt to cast Republicans as intolerant, uncaring and even bigoted.”
But given the timing of the committee’s vote, as millions of Americans march and protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Wilson’s record on voting rights and voter suppression is particularly glaring.
In a 2011 op-ed, Wilson dismissed the NAACP’s concerns about a proposed Mississippi voter ID law as “poppycock.” He ripped the Justice Department in 2013 for sending election observers to the state, which has a long history of voter suppression and intimidation, and instead suggested federal officials go after incredibly rare cases of “voter fraud.”
He similarly dismissed the Obama administration’s concern about voter suppression in a 2012 op-ed: “The Rachel Maddows of the media world have joined the chorus of ‘voter suppression’ right on cue from Team Obama. This is as phony as the ‘war on women.’”
Wilson has also described President Barack Obama as ”King Barack,” ”petty and small” and ”a fit-throwing teenager.” And when then-Attorney General Eric Holder discussed why he opposed voter ID laws in 2012, Wilson wrote in a 2013 op-ed, “Holder whined, like many liberals, that voter ID laws are part of an illegitimate, orchestrated effort by Republicans to suppress poor and minority voting.”
“His record is an antithesis to what the American people are marching for and demanding right now,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during Thursday’s hearing.
“His record is extremely problematic at this moment in time, especially when given just this week, we saw voter suppression in Georgia, including limited ballots, voting machines down and hours-long lines in primarily Black and brown communities,” Harris continued, referring to the state’s disastrous election on Tuesday. “Wilson should not be confirmed to this judicial vacancy at this moment in our history.”
Republicans didn’t say much of anything as Democrats, one by one, raised concerns with Wilson’s record and said they would be voting no.
In a May letter of opposition to Wilson, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said it is a particular affront to the people of Mississippi, a state with a high percentage of African Americans, that Wilson would preside over voting rights cases in the state. The 5th Circuit hears appeals from district courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
“Judges serving on those courts must have respect for the rule of law and for the advances our nation has made in ensuring equal justice for all,” said Johnson. “Cory Wilson wholly lacks these essential qualities and also the requisite temperament to sit in judgment of the rights of residents within this critical circuit in the Deep South.”
Despite his critics, Wilson is expected to be confirmed given that Republicans control the Senate and none have signaled opposition to him.
His confirmation vote could come as soon as next week.
Like so many of President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees, Wilson is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that has effectively been picking Trump’s judicial nominees for him. There is a clear theme to these court picks, too: They have records of being anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion and anti-voting rights.