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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

Go deeper

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Most Americans are still vulnerable to the coronavirus

Adapted from Bajema, et al., 2020, "Estimated SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence in the US as of September 2020"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As of September, the vast majority of Americans did not have coronavirus antibodies, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: As the coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout most of the country, most people remain vulnerable to it.

Trump set to appear at Pennsylvania GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is due to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday at a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing to discuss alleged election irregularities.

Why it matters: This would be his first trip outside of the DMV since Election Day and comes shortly after GSA ascertained the results, formally signing off on a transition to President-elect Biden.

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