Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has indicated she will block ex-GOP state Sen. Greg Brower from becoming a federal judge despite Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s support for the potential nomination , sources confirm.
Cortez Masto, who occasionally clashed with Brower when he was in the Legislature and in private practice and when she was attorney general, has said privately that she would not support him. Brower is in Washington, DC, as the FBI’s liaison to Congress. It is highly unusual for a senator from the same state to oppose the other’s choice for the bench.
Cortez Masto’s position comes despite Brower’s broad support, not just from the Trump Administration but from prominent Nevada Democrats, including former Govs. Bob Miller and Richard Bryan. Brower, I’m told, also has said he has the support of ex-Sen. Harry Reid, although Reid and Heller notably clashed over a previous federal judicial nomination that Heller blocked. And Reid is known to have a long memory.
The bench opening comes after controversial Judge Clive Jones was relegated to senior status more than a year ago. No nominee has been put forward.
But both Miller and Bryan confirmed they were supportive of Brower becoming a federal judge.
“He (Brower) asked me to call her (Cortez Masto) and see if she would meet with him,” Miller said. The state’s longest-serving governor said he had dealt with the former state senator in the past and “the Brower I knew seemed like he would make a good judge.”
Bryan said he supported Brower but had not talked to Cortez Masto.
Cortez Masto’s spokesman, Rey Benitez, would not respond to direct questions about a possible Brower nomination and why the junior senator would not meet with him. “Brower has not been nominated, so we are not going to speculate,” he said via email.
Sources say Heller and Brower fear that Cortez Masto would return an unfavorable blue slip on Brower, which would all but scuttle his nomination. Blue slips are submitted by home-state senators to provide their opinion on a judicial nominee.
This comes amid DC chatter about Democrats blocking Trump administration judicial picks. And it hearkens back to 2012 when Heller refused to return the blue slip for Cadish after Reid got her nominated. Heller raised concerns about her support for the 2nd Amendment after an old questionnaire she filled out during a campaign surfaced. It would have been a break with tradition for the Senate to proceed without the affirmative blue slip, so her nomination died, leaving Reid furious.
For now, the potential nomination is in limbo. Heller is said to also be considering Washoe Judge David Hardy for the slot.
But these are the kinds of issues that engender long-term enmity between senators of the same state. Just ask Harry Reid.
Brower declined to comment. Reid did not return a phone call.
UPDATED, 4 PM, 7/11/17:
Reid’s aide emails that the former senator declined to be interviewed, but provided this statement from him:
“This is not up to me. It is the job of a sitting U.S. senator. Senator Masto (sic) will determine how the U. S. Senate Democratic Caucus votes on this.”
Feature photo: U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) speaks during a Nevadans Together for Medicaid news conference at University Medical Center on Friday, July 7, 1917. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)