Grassley and McConnell need to clear all roadblocks, and Trump needs to fill the pipeline, so there isn’t a single vacant seat heading into 2018 elections.
In numerous prior posts we have followed the tortuous process of getting Trump federal judicial nominees confirmed. Democrats have thrown down every procedural delay possible, even for nominees they didn’t oppose.
What Democrats fear is that Trump will take advantage of the historic opportunity handed him to reshape the federal judiciary for a generation to come. We first covered this Democrat fear in December 2016, and how the Democrats’ 2013 decision to remove the filibuster for judicial nominees below the Supreme Court level cleared the way, Dems’ Nuclear Option will allow Trump to fill over 100 court vacancies quickly.
We expanded on the math just prior to the Inauguration, quoting a study released by Ballotpedia, Liberal nightmare: Trump could appoint half federal judiciary:
“When Trump takes office, 12.41 percent of all life-term judicial positions will be vacant, and by the end of his first term, Trump could see vacancies in up to 50.3 percent of these positions.”
Trump has moved relatively quickly in nominating judges, and of course filled the Scalia seat with Neil Gorsuch, but the pace of confirmations has been maddening because of Democrat stall tactics. In mid-October 2017 we noted Grassley and McConnell need to get moving on judicial confirmations:
Nine months into the Trump first term, only 7 judges (including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch) have made their way through the confirmation process and been confirmed. There is a pipeline of judges who have been nominated, but not yet confirmed. As of today, there are 51 pending nominees for 150 current vacancies. There are an additional 17 known future vacancies for which there are three nominees.
Democrats have done everything in their power to slow down the process, including refusing to return “blue slips” (approval from home state Senators) and insisting on 30 hours of floor debate even on nominees they don’t oppose. It’s all a big stall that started early. In June, when it was clear that slow walking the process was the Democrats tactic, Chuck Grassley promised to speed things up, but it hasn’t happened.
While in raw numbers the confirmations are similar to prior administrations at this point in time (in addition to Gorsuch, 4 Circuit Court and 2 District Court confirmations), the broad-based stall is new particularly relative to the number of vacancies….
It’s time for Grassley and McConnell to get moving.
Grassley needs to overcome Democratic obstruction at the committee level, even if it means altering some non-rule traditions like the blue slip.
McConnell needs to free up as much Senate floor time as is needed for debate on nominees recommended out of committee so that the backlog is cleared this year. McConnell is feeling pressure, and has announced that the Senate will have to work more days and longer hours through year end.
And Trump needs to start feeding that pipeline of nominees so that by this time next year as many as possible of those remaining vacancies have been filled.
It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn around an institution. And it is at risk in the 2018 elections.
Have things improved? Depends who you ask.
The NY Times, which of course wants Trump not to reshape the judiciary, is aghast at the progress that has been achieved, Trump Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.:
Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor.
Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them….
While the two parties have been engaged in a tit-for-tat escalation of hardball politics over judicial nominations since the Reagan years, the Trump administration is completing a fundamental transformation of the enterprise. And the consequences may go beyond his chance to leave an outsize stamp on the judiciary….
As a result, Mr. Trump is poised to bring the conservative legal movement, which took shape in the 1980s in reaction to decades of liberal rulings on issues like the rights of criminal suspects and of women who want abortions, to a new peak of influence over American law and society.
“What makes this a unique opportunity in modern history is the sheer number of vacancies, the number of potential vacancies because of the aging bench, and the existence of a president who really cares about this issue in his gut,” said Leonard A. Leo, an informal adviser to Mr. Trump on courts who is the executive vice president of the Federalist Society.
If you ask me, not enough has been done.
While it’s unlikely, given the seats up for election, that Republicans will lose the Senate, it’s not impossible. If the Senate is lost in 2018, then so is the opportunity handed Trump to reshape the judiciary. So time is of the essence.
Every single vacant seat should be filled as quickly as possible. Some progress is not good enough. Grassley and McConnell need to clear all roadblocks, and Trump needs to fill the pipeline.DONATE
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