Nov 4, 2017 by ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski
WASHINGTON, DC—-Senate Republicans delivered a series of victories to President Donald Trump this week, confirming four federal appeals judges and two trial judges, with more expected soon.
Republicans across the spectrum continue to complain about the Senate’s dysfunctional condition on a wide variety of issues, due in large part to the narrow 52-48 GOP margin in the Senate. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that seven moderate Republican senators have proven unreliable in advancing the president’s agenda and conservative priorities, for many of them reversing the positions they took during the Obama presidency.
Conservative Republicans, in particular, have complained bitterly about the Senate’s inability to fill hundreds of positions, including, especially, nominations to serve on the federal courts.
Regarding the third branch of government, the president has nominated 56 people thus far to fill more than 150 current and upcoming vacancies on the federal bench at all three levels of the judiciary, comprised of the Supreme Court, 13 appeals courts, and 94 district courts. As of late last week, the number of confirmations for those 56 stood at seven—-less than one per month.
That changed during the past week in a big way. In the final days of October, the Senate confirmed a federal trial judge. Then during this calendar week, senators added a second trial judge, as well as four judges on the powerful federal appellate courts, which sit only one step down from the Supreme Court.
Those appellate confirmations began on Tuesday with Judge Amy Barrett’s confirmation to the Seventh Circuit by a vote of 55-43. Then on Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Judge Joan Larsen to the Sixth Circuit by a vote of 60-38. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Judge Stephanos Bibas to the Third Circuit, 53-43, and Judge Allison Eid to the Tenth Circuit, 56-41.
Two items regarding these confirmations deserve special note.
First, two of these jurists—-Larsen and Eid—-are on President Trump’s list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees. The one he selected already—-Justice Neil Gorsuch—-has proven one of the president’s greatest first-year accomplishments, making it likely that he will adhere to that list going forward.
Second, the votes against the nominees appear to be driven by pure partisanship by Senate Democrats. No substantive allegations have been made against any of the four judges. All four have spectacular credentials in terms of their education, experience, demonstrated brilliance, temperament, and reputations. There is no reason to vote against any one of them.
The fact that almost 40 Democrats voted against all of them suggests that Senate Democrats will vote against any Trump nominee. This will only serve to push Senate Republican leadership closer to revising Senate rules to end this obstruction.
Gone are the days when the Senate in 1986 voted to confirm Justice Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court by a vote of 98-0, even though Justice Scalia’s conservative views were very well known at the time.
The number of judges confirmed has jumped in a week from 7 to 13, with more than 40 nominations pending in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is preparing to schedule additional judicial nominees for votes on the Senate floor.