In a 51-40 party-line vote Wednesday afternoon, the Senate voted to confirm Brian Buescher as a federal district judge for the district of Nebraska after he faced scrutiny from Judiciary Committee Democrats late last year for his membership in a Catholic fraternal organization.
Buescher found himself at the middle of a national debate about religious intolerance late last year after he was questioned by Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii, and Kamala Harris, Calif., about his involvement with the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.
“The Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions,” Hirono said in December, noting the group’s adherence to Catholic teaching on same-sex marriage. “If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?”
Before the vote, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska took to the Senate floor to defend Buescher and urge colleagues to vote in favor of confirmation.
“Brian’s confirmation process has been an occasion for one of the most baffling displays of constitutional confusion and for prejudice I’ve seen in my time here,” Sasse told the chamber.
“Brian is a Catholic, and he’s a member of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world,” Sasse pointed out. “This is not a scandal.”
“But according to some of my colleagues,” Sasse continued, “the Knights of Columbus is an extremist outfit. One of my colleagues suggested that Brian needs to resign his membership in the Knights if he were confirmed to the federal bench to ‘avoid the appearance of conflict and bias.’ Really bizarre stuff.”
Sasse also called the questions about Buescher’s membership in the organization “plain, unadulterated anti-Catholic bigotry.”
Buescher is not the only judicial nominee to be questioned about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus. Sasse also came to the defense of then-nominee Peter Phipps after he was asked similar questions during his confirmation last month. Phipps was confirmed by a 56-40 vote earlier this month.
Full video of Sasse’s speech is available below: