By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate committee that handles judicial nominations on Tuesday raised concerns about two of President Donald Trump's picks for lower court positions, citing controversial statements each has made.
Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the influential judiciary committee, in comments first reported by CNN cast doubt on whether the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will vote to confirm the two nominees.
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Grassley told CNN the White House should "reconsider" the nomination of Jeff Mateer for a district judgeship in Texas and "should not proceed" on the nomination of Brett Talley for a district court vacancy in Alabama.
"Chairman Grassley has been concerned about statements made by nominees Mateer and Talley, and he’s conveyed those concerns to the White House," say Taylor Foy, a Grassley spokesman.
Grassley did not specify what statements he was referring to. But Talley was reported by online magazine Slate to have posted online sympathetic comments about the early history of white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, often known as the KKK. He also failed to disclose that his wife works in the White House Counsel's office, which overseas judicial nominations.
Mateer has run into trouble over speeches he made in 2015. In one, he referred to transgender children as being part of "Satan's plans," CNN reported.
Talley's nomination has already been approved by the committee, but Foy said the statements that troubled Grassley only became public after that vote on Nov 9. No action has been taken on Mateer's nomination, and the Senate has not scheduled a vote on Talley.
Trump has made significant progress in filling vacancies on the federal courts with conservative judges. So far the Senate has confirmed 16 of his nominees to district and appeals courts as well as his appointee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)