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Trump Accelerates Conservative Judicial Confirmations

Trump Accelerates Conservative Judicial Confirmations

Even prior to when President Donald Trump took office, his team was busy planning what the future of the Senate Judiciary Committee would look like.

Leading the reshaping the of the Judiciary committee was Donald McGahan II, who was later given the role of White House counsel. His goal has been to appoint young and conservative-leaning appellate judges. 

“Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial,” writes the New York Times. “Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. 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.”

Just last week four of Trump’s judicial nominees were confirmed, including Judge Joan, Amy Coney Barrett, Stephanos Bibas, Allison Eid, and Trevor McFadden.

Republicans and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped to orchestrate the rapid-fire succession, have been criticized by Democrats for not taking enough time to vet the candidates.  

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was also instrumental and met personally with Democrats in an effort to streamline the Senate’s blue slip process. 

“Under the Senate Judiciary Committee’s blue slip tradition, a state’s senators are consulted by the administration before a president nominates a judge from that state, regardless of party affiliation. The states’ senators historically have then had the opportunity to request a block of the nominee from receiving a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote,” writes the Washington Examiner. “Grassley met with seven Democrats, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, and Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar about appeals court nominees from their states and the blue slip process. Only Franken failed to return a blue slip after Grassley went senator-to-senator in a manner reminiscent of his “Full Grassley” approach to campaigning for office in every Iowa county.”

“A lot of the members are fairly new members I’ve gone to, so I think it was important I go to them, explain [to] them how it was done,” said Grassley to the Washington Examiner. “There was reason to believe that Democrats would drag their feet maybe as a result of their caucus, or their leader’s position, and I guess then I kind of wanted to let them know that I take the job of being chairman serious and the blue slip being a serious part of that process. For the most part, I went to find out what can we do, what information do you need, what can we do to help you make up your mind? Stuff like that.” 

However, Trump pushing for quick appointments is upholding a promise he made on the campaign trail.  

“During the campaign, Mr. Trump shored up the support of skeptical right-wing voters by promising to select Supreme Court justices from a list Mr. McGahn put together with help from the Federalist Society and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Exit polls showed that court-focused voters helped deliver the president’s narrow victory. Now, he is rewarding them,” writes the New York Times.

“We will set records in terms of the number of judges,” said Trump recently while next to McConnell. “There has never been anything like what we’ve been able to do together with judges.”

Democrats still have desperately tried to slow the appointments down with legislation.

“When President Trump took office, he faced more judicial vacancies than four of his five predecessors (105), and, because of the obstruction and ridiculous delays Senate Democrats are imposing, there are now more vacancies than there were then (138),” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network to The Daily Signal.

Although Democrats have tried to impede the judicial confirmations, Trump has filled more federal court vacancies in both the circuit and district courts than the last three presidents in his first 200 days of office.

But, Trump did enter office with twice as many lower court vacancies than Obama had.   

This recent confirmation of the conservative appellate judges comes after Trump appointed the conservative-lending Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The justice system is being transformed on a regional level, as well.  

“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,” writes the New York Times.

“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, executive vice president of the Federalist Society.

Editor’s note: While any Republican president would be likely to appoint conservative judges, Trump has done this with a vengeance. And if he is successful in appointing two or three new Supreme Court judges in his term, the Supreme Court will have a conservative bent for at least the next generation, and possibly more.


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