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Senators debate when nominee's religion is fair game

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Religious News

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., suggested the committee hold a hearing about the issue. After the votes, Durbin said such a hearing had not been held before but agreed it should be.

"I think it is legitimate to talk about the constitutional impact of questions that are asked of nominees," Durbin said.

Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, didn't say anything during Thursday's committee vote. But Tuesday on the floor, he said that the Senate should examine a nominee's jurisprudential views and qualifications, and not "examine their relationships with the Almighty."

"It bears repeating that a Roman Catholic can be a faithful steward of the law. So can an Episcopalian. So can a Mormon. So can a Muslim. Of course, so can an atheist," said Flake, who is Mormon. "I sincerely hope this body will step back from this dangerous ledge and evaluate Professor Barrett based on her impeccable qualifications, not where she attends church."

The committee advanced Barrett's nomination on a party-line vote of 11-9. The nominations of Joan Larsen for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and Eric Dreiband to head the Justice Department's civil rights division were also approved, 11-9.

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