Chad Readler testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Oct. 10, 2018. Photo by Diego Radzinschi/ALM

Sixth Circuit nominee Chad Readler was confirmed to the bench Wednesday despite a last-minute effort to tie his nomination to the Justice Department’s refusal to defend the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats started their offensive Tuesday by trying to tie Readler’s confirmation to his time in President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, where he signed a brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.

Readler, a former Jones Day partner who worked in the law firm’s offices in Columbus, Ohio, was confirmed on a 52-47 vote.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, on Tuesday claimed Readler led the way to end coverage for pre-existing conditions. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, criticized Readler for an article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal calling for allowing the death penalty to be “available” for imposition for capital offenses committed by 16- or 17-year-olds.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was one of the first Republicans to break ranks and announce she would not support Readler’s nomination.

Readler first came under fire from Democrats over his role at the DOJ’s Civil Division, where his name topped several legal briefs defending Trump administration policies.

Senators zeroed in on Readler’s role when the DOJ made the controversial decision last June to drop its defense of the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions provision, in the case Texas v. United States. Three career DOJ attorneys removed themselves from the case around the time of the shift. One of them—Joel McElvain, a Civil Division veteran—ultimately resigned.

“It was our job to decide what the legal position would be for the United States,” Readler said during his October confirmation hearing. “My role in the case was to consult again with our career servants who are in the government from administration to administration, and then we would make a recommendation up to the leadership.”

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