Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has taken his hardest line yet in the face of what he called Democratic “obstruction” of Trump administration nominees to the judicial and executive branches. McConnell on Thursday announced that the Senate will stay in session for as long as it takes to approve twelve of Trump’s judicial nominees as well as four executive-branch picks. “No more obstruction, no more delays. It’s time to confirm them all,” McConnell said. “The Senate will continue to work right through August until every single one of them is confirmed.” McConnell plans to explode Democratic filibusters on every one of the next 16 nominees, and has scheduled votes on them for this week. Democrats’ own 2013 amending of the filibuster rule has prevented them from stopping the votes. Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid spearheaded the effort to cancel the filibuster option for most nominations by presidents. Instead of the 60-vote supermajority previously required to confirm administration nominees, the razor-thin Republican majority can confirm them with zero Democratic votes. So far 110 Trump nominees have had to deal with a filibuster threat from Democrats, McConnell said on Twitter. Still, the Senate has managed to confirm 26 circuit-court judges and 26 district-court picks as well as Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch. McConnell organized Senate votes on the twelve judicial nominees as well as nominees for assistant attorney general, assistant security of the treasury, assistant secretary of health and human services, and vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Trump’s nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Kathy Kraninger, advanced to a Senate vote on Thursday after the Senate Banking Committee approved her 13 to twelve along party lines.
The Senate confirmed a Catholic woman Tuesday to sit on an appeals court seat over the opposition of Democrats, sparking complaints from Republicans who said they fear some in the chamber are imposing religious tests that would deny faithful Catholics a chance at judgeships. Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, was cleared on a 55 to 43 vote, with all of the opposition coming from members of the Democratic Caucus. Just three Democrats joined the GOP in backing her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. She was the first of three women, and four appeals court nominees total, that Republicans intend to confirm this week. “I assume that all three of these impressive women will receive strong support from our Democratic colleagues, who never seem to miss an opportunity to talk about a ‘War on Women,’” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mr. McConnell on Tuesday. Ms. Barrett, a devout Catholic, drew questions about her faith during her confirmation hearing last month. Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, asked her if she was an ‘orthodox Catholic’ while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told Ms. Barrett ‘the dogma’ lives loudly within her. And on Monday, Republican senators alleged Democrats of ‘Catholic bigotry’ in their refusal to support Ms. Barrett’s confirmation, saying their attempt to mount a filibuster against her was proof. But Mr. Durbin said he was only asking Ms. Barrett about her academic writing where she used the term ‘orthodox Catholic’ and he wondered what she meant by that. He also said his opposition to her wasn’t because of her faith, but rather because she hasn’t spent enough time in a courtroom. “I’ll let my record speak for itself about the numbers of Catholic nominees that I have appointed to the bench,” he said on the chamber floor Tuesday. “I don’t believe she has sufficient experience to be a circuit court judge.” Progressive groups didn’t say Ms. Barrett was unqualified based on her faith, but worry she will rule against women’s right to abortion access and gay rights. “Professor Barrett’s past statements and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. And more broadly, her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If Donald Trump succeeds in packing the courts with judges who share his hostility to civil rights, we will lose one of the only remaining checks our nation has on his virtually unlimited powers, and the consequences will be felt for decades to come,” said Sharon McGowan, strategy director for Lambda Legal. Mr. Durbin also said he will reject the other three circuit court judges this week. One of those, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who is nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcame an attempted filibuster by Democrats on Tuesday in a 60 to 38 vote. Mr. Durbin said he rejects Justice Larsen because she was on the list of 21 judges suggested to Mr. Trump during his campaign as potential Supreme Court nominees by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to fill the vacancy after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016. “Clearly, those right wing organizations are confident that they will like her rulings if she is confirmed,” he said. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid for the 10th Circuit and Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd Circuit are also set to receive confirmation votes by the end of the week, according to Mr. McConnell. The Senate confirmed Trevor McFadden for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.
Senate Republicans confirmed one federal judge on Thursday and set the stage to confirm five more judges next week, including to federal appeals courts across the nation. While these are victories for President Donald Trump, conservatives caution senators that this week’s developments are a good start, but not enough to satisfy them when it comes to the federal courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture on five judicial nominees, one to the federal trial court in Washington, D.C., and the other four to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. The federal appeals courts are just one step down from the U.S. Supreme Court. The appellate nominees are: Stephanos Bibas for the Third Circuit, Joan Larsen for the Sixth Circuit, Amy Coney Barrett for the Seventh Circuit, and Allison Eid for the Tenth Circuit. Larsen is currently a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Barrett is a professor at Notre Dame Law School. They had confirmation hearings in September and made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) on October 5, but had been stymied there for the past three weeks. Bibas is a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Eid is a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. They both had hearings in SJC last week, and were voted out of committee Thursday morning These nominees are considered especially important because Larsen and Eid was two names on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks. These two—both women—are considered possible contenders for the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, should her seat become vacant during the next three years. The trial court nominee for whom McConnell filed cloture is Trevor McFadden, slated for final confirmation on Monday to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The four appellate court nominees will then follow. Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, McConnell lamented that despite the fact that “the well-qualified men and women the president has nominated enjoy substantial bipartisan support, Democrats are abusing Senate rules and precedent to create “partisan procedural hurdles” that cannot deny the ultimate outcome of confirmation but can burn up hundreds of hours of time that could go to other priorities. Facing relentless pressure from Republicans to confirm President Trump’s nominees, McConnell promised on the Senate floor, “We will confirm these nominees. You can count on it.” Some nominees are still in limbo after today’s moves, most notably Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, who was nominated for the Eighth Circuit. Stras is still held hostage in the SJC because Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) refuses to return a blue piece of paper with a check mark to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Conservative leaders insist, however, that they will not be fully satisfied until McConnell reinterprets Senate rules and changes Senate practice to remove the remaining roadblocks on President Trump’s nominees, mainly on the Senate floor rather than a committee. Judicial Crisis Network Chief Counsel Carrie Severino discussed the chief roadblock, pointing out that allowing 30 hours of post-cloture debate on every nominee is consuming massive amounts of Senate session time, slowing the confirmation rate of judges to a crawl. McConnell’s actions on Thursday do not fix that problem, and he will have to hold 50 of his 52 Republicans together to affirm any change to the 30-hour standard. Sen. James Lankford is pushing to reduce post-cloture debate to eight hours, while some conservatives argue that debate on all nominees—judicial and executive—should be limited to two hours. Thursday’s actions illustrated the post-cloture problem, as the Senate confirmed Judge Scott Palk to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by a 79-16 vote, but only after consuming a couple days of the Senate’s debate time. Palk had actually first been nominated by Obama. With Senate Democrats using the 60-vote requirement to end filibusters as a tool for blocking some legislation and with moderate Republicans proving unreliable when it comes to passing all remaining legislation in the 52-48 Republican-controlled Senate, the White House and the president’s allies are increasingly looking to big wins in judicial nominations to give the president a series of accomplishments going into the 2018 midterms. The Senate had confirmed merely seven of President Trump’s 56 judicial nominees before today’s action. After these nominees, that number will stand at 13. The president still has another 89 judicial nominations to make to fill all current vacancies, with more coming soon.
President Trump hit another judicial home run with his 5th Circuit nominees today. Don Willett and Jim Ho are tremendously experienced and qualified lawyers and public servants whose intellect and legal skills are matched only by their integrity and commitment to the rule of law. I have known them both for a long time and can attest that they will be tremendous assets to the federal judiciary. Justice Willett’s nomination in particular will make national headlines because of his presence on social media. A decade from now it probably (hopefully!) won’t be unusual to find federal judges tweeting about life, the universe, and everything — but in 2017, Willett is a trailblazer. Not that he’s snarky or glib or anything that Twitter is known for. Instead, he’s become the judicial Twitter laureate because of the education he gives his fellow citizens on the Constitution and the proper role of a judge (and bacon) all in his own inimitable “judge next door” style. It’s to the enduring credit of the White House counsel’s office and Justice Department that someone who’s not plain-vanilla made it through the vetting process. Not that Willett is all hat, no cattle. His work on the Texas Supreme Court has become known for his clear writing style and unwillingness to let the government, especially the Texas government, slide if it’s exceeding its powers or intruding on constitutional rights. It’s no wonder that he made the Supreme Court shortlist for the seat that Justice Neil Gorsuch now occupies, nor that he’s become a favorite of conservative (and libertarian) elites and Texas lawyers alike. Jim Ho has also made a reputation as someone committed to originalism and textualism, having graduated with honors from the University of Chicago Law School (my alma mater), clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, built on Ted Cruz’s success as Texas solicitor general, and established his own nationally renowned appellate practice at Gibson Dunn in Dallas. He’s truly a rising star. An additional winner from this announcement is Cruz himself. Both Willett and Ho are longtime friends of his and the fact that the junior senator from the Lone Star state was able to prevail in the Texas battle royale that delayed the filling of these two seats speaks volumes about the continued influence he has regarding constitutional issues and the future of the conservative legal movement. In short, I offer a double-barrel salute to President Trump and his legal advisers on this one. Whatever else is going on in the world, this administration’s judicial appointments are on the right track.
Agreed!! We agree with this ringing endorsement of these two outstanding judicial nominees by Ilya Shapiro who penned that piece. Thus far, President Trump’s judicial picks have been home runs! Excellent!! 🙂