Bench Memos

White House

A Left-Wing Group Demands that Democrats Oppose Trump’s Judicial Nominees

President Donald Trump talks to reporters in Washington, D.C., March 8, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

Here in Washington, you can find a group pressing its views on almost any issue imaginable. Many of them issue scorecards to summarize what members of Congress are doing.

One group trying to influence the appointment of federal judges has just released its scorecard for the 115th Congress. It gives a majority of current Senate Democrats a C or worse; five flunked out altogether.

No, this group isn’t Heritage Action or the Family Research Council. It is Demand Justice, the new far-left outfit that wants to call the shots for Democrats.

Their orders are simple: “Senate Democrats ought to be opposing each and every judge that Trump nominates.” This means voting to filibuster, and then voting against confirming, every Trump nominee to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. This includes a nominee who would serve in a Democrat’s state, apparently even if the senator recommended that nominee for appointment.

It even means voting to filibuster, and then voting against confirming, a minimum of 60 percent of Trump’s nominees to the U.S. District Court. Since district-court nominees cannot be confirmed without the support of their home-state senators, this again requires Democrats to oppose some of the very nominees that they recommended in the first place.

A little historical context will go a long way before turning to the actual grades Senate Democrats received. During the entire 20th century, only 44 confirmed judges received more than ten negative votes. So far, 47 Trump-nominated judges have received more than 10 nays on their successful confirmation votes. Thirty-one of them received more than 40 negative votes.

Democrats have also forced the Senate to take a separate vote to invoke cloture, or end debate, before confirming 55 Trump judges. That’s six times as many as during the first two years of the previous nine presidents combined. This is confirmation obstruction on a massive, unprecedented scale.

But none of that is good enough for Demand Justice. Take Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) as an example. She has a 4.7 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. No matter, Demand Justice flunked her. Gave her a solid F.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has a 4.8 percent ACU rating over more than 40 years in the upper chamber. When he was Judiciary Committee chairman, he allowed Democrats from one state to block Republican judicial nominees from other states. That had never happened before. Yet he got a D- from Demand Justice.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Judiciary Committee Democrat today, has an 8.8 percent lifetime ACU rating. She voted 23 times to filibuster President George W. Bush’s appeals court nominees, back when a filibuster could actually defeat a nominee. She has voted another 25 times to filibuster Trump nominees, even after such filibusters had been rendered ineffective. Feinstein got a D+.

This extremism gives extremism a bad name. When Demand Justice says jump, it’s not just a high jump, it’s a pole vault, and only the most radical can make it over.

Thomas Jipping is the deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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