The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared four of President Trump's judicial nominees Thursday, rejecting complaints by Democrats who said that one of them called a Supreme Court justice a "judicial prostitute" and that the other equated the high court's legal rulings to slavery and abortion.
Two of the picks were approved easily, but Democrats said John Kenneth Bush, Mr. Trump's nominee for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Damien Michael Schiff, his pick for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, had both made blog postings that should disqualify them from being judges.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, accused Mr. Bush of promoting the idea that former President Obama had been born in Kenya, by linking in a blog to a World Net Daily piece that involved a reporter traveling to Kenya to explore the issue. Mr. Obama has repeatedly released documentation showing that he was born in Hawaii.
Mr. Bush denied during his confirmation hearing that he was promoting the "birther" theory.
Mr. Bush, an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, also once opined abortion and slavery were the "two greatest tragedies in our country" because the Supreme Court decisions "relied on similar reasoning and activist justices."
Meanwhile Mr. Schiff, in a 2007 post, called Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy a "judicial prostitute" who was "'selling' his vote as it were to four other Justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence."
"The Bush and Schiff nominations never should have been made," Mr. Leahy said.
Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said he thought the blog writings "showed a lack ... of judicial temperament," but said one of Mr. Obama's nominees had also made questionable blog posts in the past, yet Democrats didn't object then.
"These same colleagues didn't have that same concern in 2013," said Mr. Grassley.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Schiff cleared the committee on 11-9 votes, with Republicans backing the two nominees, likely clearing the way for them to be confirmed on the full Senate floor later this month.
Democrats are likely to filibuster, as they have for most Trump nominees, but it takes just a majority vote to overcome a filibuster, thanks to the "nuclear option" rules change implemented by Democrats in 2013.
The two other nominees that cleared easily were Kevin Christopher Newsom, who was nominated to the 11th Circuit, and Timothy J. Kelly, who was nominated to be a district judge for the District of Columbia. The vote for Mr. Newsom was 18-2, while Mr. Kelly passed on a voice vote.
The two circuit court judges are from states where both senators are Republicans, which helped them clear the "blue slip" process that gives home-state senators a say in nominations. The District of Columbia doesn't have senators.
Republicans say that a number of other nominees are being held up because Democrats have yet to return blue slips signaling acceptance of the picks. GOP leaders are considering whether to closely adhere to the blue slip tradition, given what they see as Democratic obstruction.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee, said her party isn't abusing the process, saying the delays are to be expected when senators evaluate judicial picks.
"Democratic senators are doing their due diligence in reviewing these nominees," said Ms. Feinstein. "There's been no obstruction."
She also urged the GOP to respect the blue slips, saying Democrats did when then ran the chamber. She said Republicans used the blue slip process to block an Obama nominee to the 11th Circuit - the very seat for which Mr. Newsom was approved Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Mr. Trump announced 11 new federal district court nominations, moving to fill out more of the 100 vacancies he faced when he took office in January.
His fifth set of nominees would fill seats in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Each of those states has two Republican senators, easing the path for the nominees, who are not likely to face home-state opposition.
With 34 nominations made since taking office, Mr. Trump is outpacing both President Obama and President Bush, said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice.