The Senate narrowly confirmed a federal judge Thursday to the Eastern District of Michigan, despite some Republicans expressing concern about his views on gun ownership rights and the death penalty.
Gershwin Drain was confirmed in a 55-41 vote mainly along party lines, and will fill a bench spot considered a judicial emergency. The position has been empty since Bernard Friedman took senior status in January 2009, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The Michigan senators spoke on the floor on behalf of Drain, currently a Michigan state circuit court judge. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Drain had written controversial articles when he was much younger and he had been upfront on how his views on those positions had evolved.
No Republicans spoke against his nomination on the floor Thursday.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee level, Ranking Minority Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Drain wrote an article about the Second Amendment in which he envisioned a day when the National Rifle Association would lose influence and a person with a gun would be looked on as a coward.
Grassley said Drain also wrote an article calling the death penalty barbaric and said it did not deter crime, although Drain testified that he has changed his mind since that was published.
Also on Thursday, the Judiciary Committee also approved three district court judicial nominees, including Thomas Durkin for the Northern District of Illinois, and Jon Tigar and William Orrick III for the Northern District of California.
While Durkin and Tigar received unanimous voice votes, Orrick was approved 12-6.
During his confirmation hearing last month, Grassley called Orrick a "a big political operative, as opposed to most who come before us." Grassley grilled him about some of the positions he argued regarding immigration and the Defense of Marriage Act as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
There are 22 judicial nominees to district and circuit courts awaiting action on the floor of the Senate, which is now on summer recess until September 10.