The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 in a party-line vote on February 28 to advance OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao’s nomination to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The vote took place less than a week after Senate Judiciary Committee member Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) raised concerns about his reading of Rao’s academic writings that he claimed favor substantive due process—a legal interpretation that aims to safeguard general rights not specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. Hawley and other lawmakers who oppose abortion criticize substantive due process because it has been applied to advance abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade, through federal courts.
President Trump nominated Rao to the D.C. Circuit seat, which was vacated by Brett Kavanaugh following his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 2018. Prior to joining the Trump administration as the administrator of OIRA in July 2017, Rao worked as an associate professor of law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State. She also served as counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary under U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R), as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and as a special assistant and associate counsel to former President George W. Bush (R).