Steven Menashi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-41 to confirm Steven Menashi, President Trump's nominee for a federal appeals court, despite bipartisan criticism over his record and refusal to answer questions about his tenure with the Trump administration, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: While serving as acting general counsel under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Menashi helped craft a plan to use private Social Security earnings data to deny debt relief to people who had been scammed by for-profit colleges, according to reporting by the New York Times.

  • A federal judge ruled that the plan violated privacy laws and ordered the practice to be halted.

Senators also grilled Menashi on his controversial past writings, including a 2010 article in which he invoked "ethnonationalism" as a defense for Israel's existence as a "Jewish state" and another that accused gay rights activists of exploiting the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay student who was tortured and killed in 1998, to further their agenda.

What they're saying: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Menashi "showed a breathtaking contempt for senators on both sides of the aisle,” per the Post.

  • "You're really a smart guy but I wish you would be more forthcoming. This isn't supposed to be a game," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) during a September hearing, per The Hill. "We're supposed to try to understand not how you're going to rule but how you're going to think."
  • "In no way does Menashi deserve this lifetime appointment," wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Twitter. "I implore my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to listen to the red flags raised by communities and advocates across the country, do the right thing, and vote against this toxic nomination."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, called Menashi an "impressive" nominee who earned an endorsement by the Senate Judiciary Committee "on the basis of strong academic and legal qualifications," per the Post.

Go deeper: Trump nominee Steven Menashi aided in illegal debt relief effort

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 30,911,999 — Total deaths: 959,059— Total recoveries: 21,147,903Map.
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  4. Education: What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning.
  5. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — 7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week.
  6. World: England sets £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules — The countries painting their pandemic recoveries green.

Arrest over letter to Trump containing poison ricin

President Trump returning to the White House from Minnesota on Sept. 18. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A suspect was arrested for allegedly "sending a suspicious letter" after law enforcement agents intercepted an envelope addressed to President Trump containing the poison ricin, the FBI confirmed in an emailed statement to Axios Sunday.

Details: The suspect, a woman, was arrested while trying to enter New York from Canada, law enforcement forces said.

Trump campaign goes all in on Pennsylvania

Trump poster in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The president's campaign is placing more importance on Pennsylvania amid growing concern that his chances of clinching Wisconsin are slipping, Trump campaign sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, twice Wisconsin's number, actually has been trending higher in recent public and internal polling, a welcome development for the campaign.