Republicans blocking Biden’s historic judicial nominee wasn’t surprising. The Democrats who joined them were.

When in November President Joe Biden nominated Harvard and Oxford-educated lawyer Adeel Mangi to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the choice was immediately celebrated. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy noted Mangi was a “well-respected” lawyer and an “outstanding” choice. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., echoed that sentiment, sharing that he has known Mangi for years and had “seen firsthand that he is a person of integrity and deep conviction with an unflinching commitment to fairness and equality.”

Mangi received the vocal support of other notable senators like Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and was given a unanimous “Well Qualified” rating by the American Bar Association. Given that, you would expect that Mangi would easily be confirmed.

If confirmed, Mangi would be the first Muslim American ever to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for Republicans to manufacture objections.

But there’s one wrinkle. Mangi is Muslim. In fact, if confirmed, Mangi would be the first Muslim American ever to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for Republicans to manufacture objections, ranging from claiming Mangi is somehow not anti-terrorism enough to claiming he is “anti-police.” That type of Islamophobic rhetoric from the GOP is expected. What wasn’t anticipated is that a few Senate Democrats are now joining in opposing Mangi — thus, depriving Biden of a much-needed win in his efforts to regain the trust of Muslim Americans who’ve lost faith in him following his handling so far of Israel’s brutal assault in Gaza.  

A number of Muslim American organizations have become invested in supporting Mangi’s confirmation, including Emgage, a national organization that focuses on mobilizing Muslims to vote; the Muslim Bar Association of New York; Muslims for Progressive Values; the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and more. As a member of the Muslim community, I have received numerous emails and text messages from people in the community expressing support for Mangi and outrage over the smear campaign to block him. I’m not suggesting Mangi’s confirmation alone will convince the many Muslim Americans rightfully angered over Biden’s continued support for funding Israel since Oct. 7 to vote for him in November. But not confirming the first Muslim American in this role could add to the angst in the community if it’s seen that Biden didn’t fight hard enough for Mangi.

As a community, we know that when it comes to the GOP, anti-Muslim bigotry has long been a plank in their unofficial platform. Donald Trump took it to new lows when he weaponized anti-Muslim hate during his 2016 campaign, falsely claiming Muslims in New Jersey cheered on 9/11, making statements like “Islam hates us,” and eventually calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming to the United States. 

This explains why GOP senators like John Kennedy and Tom Cotton asked Mangi bigoted questions during Mangi’s confirmation hearing, asking him if he celebrated 9/11 and calling on him to denounce Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack — I’ve no doubt they wouldn’t have asked such things if Mangi were any other faith. Mangi, of course, responded the he did not celebrate 9/11, he fully denounced the Hamas attack and vocally condemned antisemitism in any form. Indeed, a long list of Jewish American organizations are supporting Mangi’s nomination, including the American Jewish Committee, the National Council for Jewish Women and a coalition of 15 Jewish organizations representing more than 1 million people who, per their joint letter, support Mangi given his “devotion to his community, and commitment to religious freedom and civil rights.”

The Republican senators grounded their innuendoes on Mangi’s affiliation with the Rutgers Law School Center for Security, Race and Rights, which in 2021 featured a speaker who had pled guilty in 2006 to providing support for a terrorist group. But Mangi testified that his role with the board was advisory on academic issues only and he had neither personal knowledge nor involvement with this event.

Despite the GOP’s opposition, given that Democrats control the Senate 51-49, Democrats could confirm Mangi without even one GOP vote. But this week, three Senate Democrats joined in blocking the nomination. First there was West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who recently proclaimed he won’t vote for any judicial nominee unless at least one Republican supports the person — because he’s suddenly that committed to bipartisanship.

Opposing Mangi is a transparent move to help Rosen’s re-election campaign in a state like Nevada, which has less than a 1% Muslim population.

Then came opposition from two Democratic senators from Nevada: Jacky Rosen, who is up for re-election this year in what is expected to be a competitive race, and Catherine Cortez Masto. Both have claimed that Mangi is anti-police.

The Biden administration — which has been doggedly fighting to secure Mangi’s confirmation — emphasized this week that “close to a dozen law enforcement organizations” have endorsed Mangi. In addition, the White House highlighted that three former New Jersey attorneys general and two former U.S. attorneys from the Garden State expressed their support for Mangi, in addition to the International Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Italian American Police Society of New Jersey and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Beyond these groups, Mangi is also being supported by the AFL-CIO, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and Foundation, Hispanic American Law Enforcement Association and many more organizations that truly make up the core of the Democratic Party. These organizations would not put their own reputations on the line for Mangi if these allegations were true, or if he were unqualified.

I’m not suggesting that the three Democratic senators opposing Mangi are anti-Muslim. Their actions are, though, cravenly political — opposing Mangi is a transparent move to help Rosen’s re-election campaign in a state like Nevada, which has less than a 1% Muslim population.

These three senators could have chosen to join with all the other Democratic senators who believe Mangi and the Biden administration and see through the politically motivated, debunked claims of the GOP and more conservative police organizations. Instead, they are blocking a qualified, historic nominee as well as depriving Biden of a much-needed win that could potentially help him win back the trust of some in the Muslim community before the November election.