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While you were focused on … Republicans kept moving judicial nominees through pipeline

While you were focused on … Republicans kept moving judicial nominees through pipeline

It’s happening, just not dominating the news cycles.

This has been another crazy news week, with breaking news after breaking news.

While you were focused on other things, Republicans continued to shepard judicial nominees through the confirmation blockages put in place by Democrats.

We have covered the almost unprecedented opportunity presented to Trump to reshape the judiciary, and how that process finally appears to be picking up speed. On January 18, we noted, Approaching ramming speed: Senate Judiciary Committee advances 17 judicial nominees.

Since then, the process has continued.

Democrats have reacted hysterically to Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley moving forward on the nomination Michael Brennan of Wisconsin to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who was voted out of committee on a party line vote. Mother Jones fumed, Senate Republicans Are About to Break Precedent to Move This “Far-Right” Judge Forward:

Brennan also has the distinction of being the second Trump judicial nominee to move forward without a so-called “blue slip” from both of his home state senators. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), did not return the document signaling her approval of the nomination.

We addressed the blue slip stalling tactic, and how Grassley previously announced he would not allow that courtesy to turn into a de facto filibuster. So good for him not allowing Baldwin to hold up the nomination indefinitely.

As Carrie Severino tweeted, Grassley’s disregard of the blue slip stall was not a break with precedent:

Meanwhile, the steamroller keeps chugging along, as Jonathan Adler wrote at Volokh Conspiracy on February 14:

Last weekend Beltway pundits may have proclaimed the White House was off the rails, but the Trump judicial nomination train remains on track. The White House announced its eleventh set of judicial nominees on Monday. As we’ve come to expect, the Administration put forward an impressive list of jurists, led by four noteworthy picks for appellate courts, including several who are guaranteed bipartisan support.

The latest appellate nominees are Andy Oldham (Fifth Circuit), Michael Scudder (Seventh Circuit), Amy St. Eve (Seventh Circuit) and Mark Bennett (Ninth Circuit). In addition, Trump nominated John Nalbandian (Sixth CIrcuit) and Joel Carson (Tenth Circuit) in January and December, respectively….

Although news stories tend to suggest the White House refuses to consult with Senators about potential judicial picks, this week’s nominations tell quite a different story. All of the appellate nominations announced this week enjoy the support of their home-state Senators, including those from states with deep-blue delegations.

Adler notes there remains much to be done:

Even with this week’s announcement, there remain quite a few seats to fill. As of this week there are 146 vacancies on federal courts, which accounts for approximately 16 percent of the federal bench. An additional thirty seats are classified as “future vacancies,” as the judges in these seats have announced their intent to retire on a date certain or upon the confirmation of their successor. Seventeen of the current vacancies are on federal appellate courts, as are seven of the future vacancies. Not including those announced Monday, there are 50 pending nominations, including seven for appellate seats. Although the Senate has sought to expedite the confirmation process, the nomination pipeline remains full. (Information on vacancies and pending nominees may be found here.)

At National Review, Severino provides this data as of February 13:

Current and known future vacancies: 176

Courts of Appeals: 23

District/Specialty Courts*: 153

Pending nominees for current and known future vacancies:

53 Courts of Appeals: 4

District/Specialty Courts: 49 (Includes the Court of Federal Claims and the International Trade Court)

Nominees Awaiting Floor Votes:

29 Courts of Appeals: 3

District/Specialty Courts: 26

Nominees Confirmed by the Senate: 24

Supreme Court: 1

Courts of Appeals: 13

District/Specialty Courts: 10

The Senate Judiciary website tracks the progress of judicial nominations, so you can see what is coming down the pipeline. Here are nominations posted yesterday:

The Judicial Nominations website has more data.

What it all means is that Trump continues to plug away as filling vacancies, continues to nominate people, the Senate Judiciary is moving them through the pipeline, and they are being teed up for floor votes. It takes too much time because of Democrat stalling tactics, but it’s happening. Though not fast enough for my liking.

As Jared Samilow noted in two posts, there is no guarantee Trump can accomplish the goal of reshaping the judiciary in his first term:

So speed it up, please.  McConnell needs to ensure we start getting more floor votes.


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Despite my desire for transparency, I have to admit that Congress works better with the cameras off.

love the graphic

4th armored div | February 16, 2018 at 10:14 pm

sooooo Rags you still against the most CONSERVATIVE POTUS SINCE RONALD REAGAN ?

A repeat, sorry:

Not Hillary
Everything else is gravy….


    I’ll repeat too:
    America has a half dozen serious problems. Solving 2 out of the 6 isn’t good enough. And somehow I doubt you’ll be crowing if the wall is never funded or our debt implodes.

      rabid wombat in reply to Matt_SE. | February 17, 2018 at 5:26 pm


      Your point is well taken. On the debt, we did not get here overnight, we will not get it solved overnight. The tax change is a good start. Correcting spending would help. Both have to start with Congress.

      Though inefficient, illegal immigration can be minimized without the wall by aggressively pursuing illegals with ICE, and etc. This seems to be occuring, and is within the Executive.

      Our foriegn policy is better than the past eight years (not a high bar, I admit)…..still in the Executive.

      Plenty of other areas to address.

      Is Trump everything I wanted – no. He is infinitely better than the alternate.


        rabid wombat in reply to rabid wombat. | February 17, 2018 at 5:30 pm

        The Judiciary has been poluted for decades. They are pulling rights out of thin air. This has led to an expansion in other areas – laws, behaviours, etc. This will not be corrected overnight. But having a solid judiciary will pay for years beyond Trump, and hopefully mitigate some of the more outrageous law creation. Good judges today will slowly erode the effects of the “legal” move to the left. Between Judges and the wall, I take Judges.

      Barry in reply to Matt_SE. | February 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Solving 2 of 6 in one year is pretty damn good.

      Who exactly do you think could have solved 6 of 6?

      Hell, who exactly do you think would have exceeded 2 in the first year?

The Friendly Grizzly | February 16, 2018 at 11:22 pm

Ike gave us Earl Warren.

We’re going to find out that the “Russians” who tried to influence the election and who fed bogus stories about the Republican candidate for the presidency were actually in the employ of – Donald Trump! It was all part of a brilliant plan to deflect attention from his agenda by dangling the prospect of indictment and impeachment in front of the MSM. While they were watching the glittering ball (crafted by Trump himself), Trump was grinding out his agenda items in relative obscurity.

Which reminds me, about two weeks ago I saw Chris Matthews blithering about how Trump supporters have been grasping at every glittering thing that seemed to exonerate Trump of “collusion.” I thought at the time – “He must be kidding. He sees the motes in their eyes, but does not see the beam in his own eye.”

Wouldn’t be so much better if the GOPe “woke” to being GOP and not Dem Lytes?


Just imagine if Trump actually said the MSM had been listening to leaks perpetrated by Democrats who had been caught leaking and became double-agents only leaking information at his request.

The MSM working towards the Trump agenda.

Something that is FAR more important than getting “good” judges confirmed, is recovering a constitutional view of the judiciary, under which Alexander Hamilton assured the public in the Federalist Papers, judges who usurped their authority would be impeached. Instead we have allowed them to become de facto unelected lawmakers and bowed down to their every utterance, which makes them, in the words of Thomas Jefferson “a despotic branch” of government (letter to Abigail Adams). Officials swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, then routinely break said oaths by instead upholding court decrees plainly contradictory to the constitution.

    Matt_SE in reply to jlronning. | February 17, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I’m hoping that Trump uses the “constitutional crisis” of the upcoming DACA reversal to bitchslap some of those judges. They’ve overstepped their bounds, and they need to be rebuked by the society at large. They need to know that nobody supports them, and their positions are illegitimate.

Wow, I never realized how much Mitch McConnell looked like Major “King” Kong (aka Slim Pickens) from Dr. Strangelove. Talk about a “Nuclear” option… LOL

“Nominees Confirmed by the Senate: 24”
So what you’re saying is that after 4 years of Trump, at this rate we’ll have a little over half the vacancies filled (96). Of course, this will drop to under half if even 17 more vacancies appear over the next 3 years, which is highly likely.

I don’t see why anybody is cheering about this.

IMO, the Senate GOPe has been holding up the process as much as possible, and confirming the bare minimum that will prevent widespread charges of sabotage.

This doesn’t even deal with the massive number of vacancies in the various agencies that they aren’t filling (which could all be filled instantly by recessing the Senate…EVERY ONE OF THEM, INSTANTLY).

The debate rules are still being gamed to slow this down. McConnell ought to impose a nuclear rule that sets an aggregate debate limit rather than a per-nominee limit. Make them choose where they burn time and cut the aggregate time way down. They should be confirming a dozen judges a week.

I guarantee you that Trump hasn’t got a clue who any of his great judicial appointments are. Whoever he picked to assemble the list is responsible, and for that, at least, he should be given credit. However, the pace of his appointments better speed up drastically. A President Cruz, in a much preferable alternate universe, would have ajready appointed solid conservatives to fill all the empty judicial seats, because he’s far more competent and organized than Trump, and knows many of the best candidates personally.

The 2018 elections, with the Democrats defending 24 Senate seats to only 8 for the Republicans, and a 33-seat lead in the House, should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans to maintain the majority in both. However, the controversies embroiling Trump, mostly brought on or exacerbated by Trump himself, have the Democrats drooling about recapturing one or both in November.

If the Democrats retake the Senate, Trump will get no more judicial appointments through it. Therefore, Trump needs to put forth all his nominations by June or so or lose them. If they retake the House, his legislative agenda is dead unless he puts executive memos on full power mode.