Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas got a little more than he bargained for when he tried to discredit one of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Myrna Pérez, a voting rights attorney, didn't hesitate to explain her reasons for arguing against the use of the term "felon" when Cotton attempted to use it against her.
Cotton attempted to use Pérez's use of terms like "murderer" and "rapist" to discredit her and her discomfort with the term "felon." But Pérez was more than happy to explain things in a way he could understand.
Pérez has argued previously for the restoration of voting rights to Americans with prior felony convictions.
Cotton also attempted to make a point about voter ID laws by asking Pérez leading questions about presenting ID when using various forms of public transportation, but she handled those questions elegantly too.
You can view their full exchange in the video below.
From the hearing transcript:
Cotton: "If someone commits a murder, do you think it's fair to call them a murderer?"
Pérez: "If someone has been convicted for murder? Yes."
Cotton: "If they commit rape, do you think it's fair to call them a rapist?"
Pérez: "Have they been convicted?"
Cotton then tried to get a jab in, but Pérez expertly handled the question.
Cotton: "So if they commit a felony do you think it's fair to call them a felon?"
Pérez: "I think that that is a bit different because there's a temporal issue, and I think that there's a raging policy debate on that."
Cotton: "Because in the past you've said that you don't like to use that word. You said, 'I don't use words like "felons" to describe people. I mean, we don't describe people by a mistake that they made'."
Pérez: "I don't. I believe that every person is a child of God capable of being redeemed, and I never look at anybody and see the worst thing that they've ever done."
Cotton kept trying, though.
Cotton: "If those convicted murderers or rapists get released from prison, often under misguided policies, do you think it's still fair to call them a murderer or rapist?"
Pérez: "Uh, irrespective of what their label was, sir, I would be on record as an advocate of trying to advocate for their right to vote if the criminal justice system had deemed them fit to be living amongst us."
He then ended his questions with a dismissive:
"All right, thanks for your testimony."
People online appreciated Pérez's skilled handling of Cotton's leading questions.
Pérez has been nominated for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. The President seems to have made a point to nominate people from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences for federal judgeships.
If Pérez is confirmed, she will be the only Latina person serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Pérez's background as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Program gives her a unique perspective to bring to a federal judgeship.
Under President Trump, a Republican majority Senate drew criticism for approving judicial nominees to lifetime appointments with no experience in court or as a working lawyer in any capacity.
The GOP now seems to be very concerned about Biden nominees' qualifications.