WASHINGTON — Omaha attorney Brian Buescher faced pointed questions on Wednesday about his views on abortion, religious liberty and environmental regulations as senators consider his nomination to be Nebraska’s next federal judge.
Buescher appeared, alongside several other nominees, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Committee Democrats noted that Buescher has described himself as “avidly pro-life.”
“You have said that it is never permissible to abort a baby, even to save the life of the mother,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Do you believe that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided?”
Buescher said it’s true that he ran as a “pro-life candidate” in his unsuccessful 2014 bid for Nebraska attorney general.
But he added that he knows the difference between being a politician and serving as a judge. And he pledged to “enforce and apply” Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
“It is a landmark decision that I will abide by,” Buescher said. “As a district court judge in Nebraska, that is my role and that is my obligation.”
President Donald Trump nominated Buescher earlier this year after U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp announced her plans to take senior status.
Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, both Nebraska Republicans, recommended Buescher, who is a partner in Kutak Rock’s Omaha office. He leads the firm’s agribusiness litigation team.
“He’s a Nebraskan through and through, and in Nebraska we maintain a commitment to the rule of law and to the Constitution, and Brian evidences that,” said Sasse, who served as chairman for Wednesday’s hearing.
Fischer introduced Buescher at the hearing, praising his work ethic developed while growing up on his family’s farm. And Fischer talked about the urgency of filling the position in order to handle the caseload of Nebraska’s federal courts.
“It is critical to our state and to our country that the district court continues to operate without additional delay,” Fischer said.
But it’s unclear how soon Buescher’s nomination will receive a committee vote, much less consideration by the full Senate.
He was only nominated for the seat last month — the American Bar Association has not even completed the evaluation it typically produces of federal judicial nominees.
Also, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is refusing to support any judicial nominations until the Senate considers a measure to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In light of that, and the dozens of other nominees waiting ahead of Buescher, it’s unlikely that the Nebraskan will be confirmed before next year, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who specializes in federal judicial selection.
Buescher could be confirmed on a party line vote despite opposition from advocacy groups who object to his work for conservative causes.
Senators pressed him on views about religious liberty, for example, and his criticisms of federal environmental regulations.
Buescher promised that his personal beliefs will be “checked at the door” if he is confirmed, but Democrats on the committee expressed skepticism.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told Buescher that the political views he has expressed over the years presumably represent strongly held beliefs.
“They don’t suddenly go away just because you become a judge,” Hirono said.