Photo: Zach Gibson (Getty)

Even among the plethora of clowns handpicked by the Federalist Society to become part of President Donald Trump’s group of nominees for the federal bench over the past few years, Neomi Rao—Trump’s nominee to replace accused sexual predator and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—has stood out.

Rao drew harsh criticism for, among other things, past writings blaming drunk women for their own assaults and other reactionary beliefs, which she was grilled over at her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month. It appears, however, that even someone like Rao might not be reactionary enough for the Republican-led U.S. Senate. 

According to a report in Axios, multiple Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, are beginning to vocalize their “deep concerns” about Rao. Why? Because Rao might not be as anti-abortion as Senate conservatives would like.

Per Axios:

Hawley said he’d read Rao’s academic work and was concerned that some of her writings suggested to him that she might be comfortable with “substantive due process” — a legal interpretation, loathed by many conservatives, that can be used to protect rights, such as the right to an abortion, that aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

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Hawley, who said he’d “only support nominees who have a strong record on life,” didn’t stop there. “I have heard directly from at least one individual who said Rao personally told them she was pro-choice,” Hawley told Axios. (The horror!) “I don’t know whether that’s accurate, but this is why we are doing our due diligence.” What was that about litmus tests on the left, again?

Hilariously, this is setting up a fight between the socially conservative and business wings of the party, which is very much in favor of Rao due to her strong belief that regulations simply shouldn’t exist. (For the past year and a half, Rao has been Trump’s “regulatory czar,” as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget.)

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The Koch-aligned Americans for Prosperity said Rao has the group’s “full support” and reportedly plans an advertising push in order to get Rao confirmed, but the Judicial Crisis Network—which also has ties to the Kochs—just went straight for Hawley’s jugular.

“Sadly, barely a month after moving to Washington, Josh Hawley is already acting like Claire McCaskill when it comes to judges,” JCN president Carrie Severino said in a statement to Axios. “Instead of supporting President Trump’s top judicial nominee, he is spreading the very same kind of rumors and innuendo and character assassination that Republican leaders fought during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Hawley could be working to confirm her and other extraordinary nominees, but it seems he’d rather be making headlines.”

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What a surprise: Even an increased majority couldn’t make Mitch McConnell’s GOP Senate caucus less dysfunctional.