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WASHINGTON  • The United States Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of St. Louis lawyer Stephen Clark for a federal judgeship by the narrowest of margins, presaging what could be a close vote for final confirmation sometime this fall.

The 11-10 vote came Thursday, a day in which the committee passed through roughly a dozen other judicial nominees, while postponing a vote on its recommendation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Clark’s nomination by Trump to be a judge in the Eastern District of Missouri has received opposition from a handful of civil rights and gay rights organization. They wrote letters to the committee opposing the nomination. They cited statements that Clark had made about abortion, gay rights, and other issues.

All 10 Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., voted against sending his nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

When Clark was nominated, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that Clark had earned “widespread praise from legal professionals and elected officials.” All 11 Republicans on the committee voted yes.

Clark founded the national litigation practice RUNNYMEADE law group in St. Louis in 2008, according to the firm’s web site. He has handled cases in more than 20 federal courts, four federal appeals courts and nine state courts.

Carl Tobias, an expert in federal courts and the Williams Chair in Law at Virginia’s University of Richmond law school, predicted that the Senate “will probably confirm him, but it may be very close.”

He noted that roughly three dozen other judicial nominees are on the Senate calendar ahead of Clark, and predicted a vote could come in October.

Here is how St. Louis-area members of Congress voted in other congressional votes in the week of Sept. 10-14


$147 Billion Appropriations Bill • Voting 377-20, the House on Sept. 13 approved the conference report on a $147 billion fiscal 2019 appropriations bill for several departments and agencies, a measure that provides $86.5 billion for veterans' programs including health care. The bill also provides $10.3 billion for construction at military bases and $4.8 billion for operating the legislative branch including a boost in funding to defend Capitol Hill against cyberattacks. A yes vote was to send HR 5895 to President Trump.

Yes • William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis; Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth; Jason Smith, R-Salem; John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.; Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Ill.


Charles Rettig, IRS Commissioner • Voting 64-33, the Senate on Sept. 12 confirmed Charles P. Rettig, 62, a tax attorney in private practice, for a five-year term as Internal Revenue Service commissioner.

Opposition centered on a recent administration ruling that tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations no longer must disclose their donors to the IRS. Those "dark money" groups can spend unlimited amounts on issue advocacy not associated with specific candidates in federal, state and local elections. But they had been required to identify their donors in confidential Form 990 filings so that the IRS could detect illegal contributions to American elections from ineligible contributors, including Russians and other foreign nationals.

A yes vote was to put Rettig in charge of administering and enforcing the federal tax code.

Yes • Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

No • Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

$147 Billion Appropriations Bill • Voting 92-5, the Senate on Sept. 12 approved the conference report on HR 5895 (above). The $147 billion measure provides $44.6 billion for energy and water programs, including $4.4 billion for a revolving loan fund to help communities upgrade drinking-water systems. In addition, the bill increases budgets for mental health and suicide prevention programs for veterans and provides $454 million for addressing veterans' opioids addiction. A yes vote was to approve the conference report.

Yes • Blunt, McCaskill, Durbin, Duckworth.

Key Votes Ahead

The House will consider a bill scaling back the Affordable Care Act in the week of Sept. 17, while the Senate will debate appropriations for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Davis and Bost on Thursday co-sponsored a resolution with other Republicans in the moderate “Main Street Caucus” saying Congress should protect access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

The votes and descriptions are compiled by "Voterama in Congress" a legislative tracking organization.

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Chuck Raasch is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.