Conservatives target Biden pick for New York district court

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President Biden's nominee for a federal district court seat in New York came under attack from conservatives during a Wednesday confirmation hearing over his past tweets and advocacy work with groups like the ACLU.

Dale Ho, who Biden has picked to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was at the center of questioning for Republicans in particular, some of whom expressed doubts about his temperament to serve on the federal bench given his past tweets and comments that appeared to criticize conservatives.

"I very much regret the tone that I've taken on social media from time to time, particularly if it's given anyone the impression that I wouldn't be impartial," Ho said early in the hearing, which also included five other judicial nominees.

Ho is the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. During the Trump administration, he argued in court against efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, as well as against efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants when determining representatives for each state.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) advocated for Biden to nominate Ho and introduced him at Wednesday's hearing as an "esteemed litigator and one of the foremost election lawyers in the country."

But Republicans pointed to multiple tweets he sent during the Trump presidency in which he criticized GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), all of whom serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Multiple senators brought up those tweets, and one in which Ho appeared to refer to himself as a "wild-eyed sort of leftist." Ho explained that he was "referring to a caricature of the way other people may have described me, not how I would describe myself."

Lee brought up a tweet in which Ho suggested Republicans would rely on a Supreme Court majority to maintain power if the "Electoral College, Senate malapportionment and extreme gerrymandering" were not enough.

Ho asserted the tweet was a reference to reports ahead of the 2020 election that some state legislatures were considering rejecting the popular vote of their states and selecting their own electors instead.

Lee suggested the tweet was damaging enough that Ho should not be confirmed, arguing it showed "open contempt for the Constitution."

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) suggested the tweets were evidence that Ho lacked the temperament to serve impartially on the federal bench.

"Mr. Ho, you're a smart man, I can tell," Kennedy said after his round of questioning. "But I think you're an angry man. And I really have great concerns about voting for you. We don't need federal judges who are angry, we need federal judges who are fair and can see both points of view."

Ho, whose Twitter account is now set to private, expressed remorse throughout the hearing for his past social media commentary and insisted it was not reflective of how he conducts himself professionally.

"I do very much regret the tone that I have taken on social media from time to time," Ho told Kennedy. "I know that I've crossed the line from time to time."

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee all expressed support for Ho's nomination, with a number of them citing his credentials and highlighting praise from judges he's clerked for about his temperament and demeanor in the courtroom.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the committee, directly addressed Kennedy's criticism at the end of the hearing.

"As for the conclusion of one of the senator's on the other side... I will tell you, each of us has a different temperament and different personality," Durbin said. "But each of us usually has an issue that raises our passions to a certain level. For me, it's the issue of immigration."

Through his work at the ACLU, Ho has been at the center of contentious fights over voting rights, an issue that has only gotten more attention over the past year as Republican legislatures enact new voting laws that critics argue restrict access to the ballot box.

Ho isn't the first Biden nominee to face problems due to past criticism of Republicans. Neera Tanden's old tweets contributed to the derailment of her nomination to serve as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

While five other judges appeared before the committee on Wednesday, Ho had gotten the most attention in the days leading up to the hearing. Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group, launched a $300,000 ad campaign opposing Ho's confirmation.

Liberal groups urged senators to confirm Ho to the bench. Demand Justice highlighted support for Ho from legal scholars and lawyers across the ideological spectrum, while other groups argued he was qualified and would add much needed diversity to the judiciary.

"Dale Ho is yet another example of an extraordinarily qualified candidate who is being undermined and attacked by conservatives based on falsehoods," Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, said in a statement.

"Mr. Ho's confirmation is also critical for AAPI representation on the federal bench where diversity is sorely lacking," Nikore added. "Senate Republicans must stop deliberately delaying the nominations of Ho and other AAPI appointees."