WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed another of Donald Trump's controversial picks for a powerful federal judgeship, as the president leaves an increasingly prominent mark on the nation's courts.
Neomi Rao was confirmed on a party-line vote of 53-46 in the Senate, where Trump's Republicans hold the majority, despite her past writings that some critics have interpreted as blaming survivors of sexual assaults for being attacked.
At 45, Rao now becomes a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most powerful benches in the country, replacing Brett Kavanaugh who endured a bitter confirmation battle last year after Trump named him to the US Supreme Court.
During that hearing Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual abuse dating back to his time high school.
In Rao's own hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she distanced herself from some of her early writings, saying she penned them during "a time of exploration."
"If a woman drinks so much that she cannot choose, well, getting there is part of her choice," Rao wrote in a review while studying at Yale University in the early 1990s.
Democrats were united against her.
They accuse Rao, a lawyer who until now headed the administration's office of regulatory affairs, of weakening protections for consumers and the environment.
The US Constitution stipulates that the president nominates federal and Supreme Court judges for life.
The Senate has to date confirmed 90 of Trump's judicial nominees, as the president seeks to reshape the federal judiciary to make it more conservative.
"Will soon be 145 Judges!" Trump tweeted at the weekend, referring to the dozens of his nominees awaiting confirmation for federal district courts and circuit appellate courts.
Several of the vacancies in the 860 permanent judicial positions have been filled with jurists that earned stamps of approval from the conservative Federalist Society.
Many of the new judges are young.
Last week the Senate green-lighted Trump's pick Allison Jones Rushing to a US appeals court despite concerns about her experience.
Born in 1982, she could spend several decades on the bench.