Matheson spokeswoman says ‘political agenda’ behind questions on brother’s judgeship

Jon Ward Contributor
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A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Matheson, the Utah Democrat who voted against health-care reform in the fall, said that questions about whether his brother was nominated to a federal judgeship in order to win support for the president’s bill are politically motivated.

“My observation is that some people are driving a political agenda,” Alyson Heyrend, a Matheson spokeswoman, told The Daily Caller.

Matheson is undecided on the health-care bill that President Obama is trying to pass by the end of the month. He was one of 38 House Democrats who voted against the bill in November.

The White House knows that if health-care reform passes, it will be by the thinnest of margins and some of the yes votes will likely have to come from at least one or two congressman who voted no the first time.

So it was inevitable that questions immediately arose late Wednesday when Matheson’s brother, Scott, was nominated to a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit. Scott Matheson is a former U.S. attorney who currently teaches law at the University of Utah.

But Heyrend’s accusation that the questions about the nomination were politically motivated appeared to be based on the fact that the first publication to raise the issue was the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine.

Heyrend said that the judgeship and the congressman’s vote on health are “two separate issues.”

Matheson himself denied any connection between the nomination and how he’ll vote on health care, in an interview with a Utah radio station.

“He had such support throughout the Utah legal community, quite frankly from Democrats and Republicans who recognize that he has a unique skill set,” Matheson said.

Scott Matheson’s nomination was praised by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah and a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I approve of that nomination. Scott is a very fine fellow,” Hatch told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Matheson was also one of the 10 House Democrats who voted no who was invited to the White House Wednesday evening for an event as part of a group of 31 congressional Democrats (full list here).

Heyrend did not comment on whether the president spoke to the congressman at the event about his vote.