Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

The Battle for Judicial Confirmations Commences

The judicial confirmation train has left the station.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported 44 judicial nominees to the full Senate, as well Bill Barr’s nomination for attorney general.

It’s the first batch of judicial nominations to advance under the chairmanship of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.).

That’s the good news. But it’s not as encouraging as it might sound.

First, all of the judicial nominees are actually re-nominees. During the 115th Congress, President Trump made more nominations than any of his predecessors had. But the Senate confirmed a historically smaller percentage of them. As a result, a record 69 judicial nominations expired without final Senate action and were returned to the president.

With a new Congress in town, Trump renominated 54 nominees who had been left hanging last year. All those approved by the committee today were in that batch. Each had a hearing last year, and 18 had already been approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Now they are before the full Senate, ready to be confirmed. Unfortunately, we can expect the Democrats’ obstruction tactics to continue.

Those tactics have been destructively effective. They have left more than 16 percent of the federal judiciary vacant. Vacancies are now nearly 30 percent higher than when Trump took office. We remain mired in the longest period of triple-digit judicial vacancies in 25 years.

Yet some Democrats seem determined to deploy new obstructionist tactics. Senate rules prohibit committees from meeting longer than two hours after the full Senate comes into session. That rule is routinely waived by unanimous consent, but today Democrats objected to waiving it. That meant that, since the Senate began at noon, the Judiciary Committee’s business meeting would have to stop at 2 p.m.

Democratic senators tried to make the meeting last that long. They indulged in seemingly endless speechifying and forced the committee to take separate roll-call votes on more than three dozen nominations. Thankfully, enough members remained to maintain a quorum, and Chairman Graham kept the votes humming so the committee could report the full roster of nominees.

There was a disturbing pattern to the voting, however. More than a dozen nominees to the U.S. District Court were approved by a party-line vote. Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), who chaired the committee under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, once criticized Republicans for this practice.

District-court nominees always have the support of their home-state senators and nearly always have strong bipartisan support. The meeting today signaled that indiscriminate, unprecedented opposition will continue for even the least controversial Trump nominees.

In addition to these re-nominations, Trump started making new nominations on January 17, and the Judiciary Committee’s hearing schedule can’t start soon enough.

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (conference calls, social-media groups, etc.). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going. Consider it?

If you enjoyed this article, and were stimulated by its contents, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.

LEARN MORE
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.

Most Popular

Elections

A Reckoning Is in Store for Democrats

The crisis of the Democrats is becoming more evident each week. Those of us who have been loudly predicting for years that the Russian-collusion argument would be exposed as a defamatory farce, and that the authors of it would eventually pay for it, are bemused at the fallback position of the Trump-haters: that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar: A Hostage Situation

‘It has to stop,” says Representative Ilhan Omar. No, it does not. Representative Omar, the Jew-hating Minnesota Democrat, is engaged in one of her usual games of misdirection, a pattern of hers that by now is familiar enough to be predicted: She says something outrageously stupid, offensive, ... Read More
Elections

Why ‘Stop Sanders’?

'Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” T. S. Eliot asked. “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” And where is the intelligence we have lost in cleverness? Cleverness is the plague of our political classes, an influenza of the intellect. The consultants are always trying to ... Read More
Film & TV

Everyone Is Wrong about The Searchers

The greatest Western of all time . . . isn’t. Though The Searchers is regularly hailed as the finest exemplar of its genre and one of the best movies of any kind (seventh-best of all time, according to the decennial Sight & Sound poll), John Ford’s 1956 film is mediocre for most of its run time. Nearly ... Read More
Immigration

Trump Is Hell-Bent on ‘Owning the Libs’

President Trump is looking into giving a free trip to San Francisco, New Orleans, or other great American cities to tens of thousands of refugees from Central America. All so he can own the libs. “Owning the libs” is one of those phrases to have emerged over the past few years that vacillates between ... Read More