A clip of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticizing Joe Biden‘s pick for a federal bench in Washington for failing to answer basic questions about the Constitution has gone viral.
On January 31, McConnell delivered a speech on the Senate floor in which he mocked Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren, who was nominated by the president to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, over her response to questioning during her confirmation hearing.
Bjelkengren, of the Spokane County Superior Court, failed to answer a number of questions posed by Louisiana Senator John Kennedy during the January 25 hearing.
When asked what Article V of the Constitution does, Bjelkengren replied: “Article V is not coming to mind at the moment.” Article V basically outlines the procedures for amending the nation’s founding document.
Kennedy then asked about Article II, which establishes the powers of the president and executive branch, and Bjelkengren could also not answer.
“As high-schoolers across America learn each year, Article II sets up the presidency and the executive branch,” McConnell said. “But this sitting judge drew another blank. Article II wasn’t coming to mind either. Goodness gracious.”
“Democrats were not particularly impressed or moved by the top-shelf professional excellence or the academic brilliance that the last Republican Administration’s nominees possessed in spades,” McConnell added.
“And apparently they don’t count those qualities as particularly high priorities now that they’re the ones doing the nominating.
“The American people deserve an impartial judiciary that is full of the finest legal minds our country has on offer. The American people deserve the best and brightest.”
In December 2017, Matthew Petersen, former President Donald Trump‘s pick for the federal district court in Washington D.C, withdrew his nomination after he also failed to answer basic legal questions from Kennedy during a confirmation hearing.
A clip of McConnell condemning Biden’s judicial picks was shared on Twitter by politics news site The Recount, where it has since been viewed more than 1.5 million times. It is unclear whether this will affect Bjelkengren’s chances of confirmation as Democrats hold a majority in the Senate and in the Judiciary Committee.
During his speech, McConnell also criticized Bjelkengren after she “flunked yet another question” about legal philosophy and then “flunked still another question” about the “most controversial Supreme Court case this term.”
He added: “Apparently, when this particular nominee had been asked to list the top 10 most impactful cases she’d ever litigated in court, she could only come up with six.”
“At no stage of her professional career has this judge focused on federal law. At no point has she ever even appeared in federal court.
“Is this the caliber of legal expert with which President Biden is filling the federal bench? For lifetime appointments?” McConnell asked.
“Is the bar for merit and excellence really set this low?”
Before serving on the Spokane County Superior Court, Bjelkengren worked as an administrative law judge for Washington’s Office of Administrative Hearings, as well as a state assistant attorney general.
The White House has been contacted for comment.