WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is having more success getting judges confirmed than Democrat Barack Obama did at this early stage in their presidencies, and that disparity is expected to increase this week as the GOP-led Senate pushes through more of Trump’s choices.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has set the stage for votes on four of the president’s appellate court nominees and one district court nominee starting Monday night. In doing so, he declared that Democrats would be unsuccessful in stopping their confirmation.
“We’ll confirm all of them this week, no matter how long that takes,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s frustration stems from Democratic insistence on using all the time Senate rules allow for moving to an up-or-down vote on the nominee. It also ignores the many ways Republicans blocked Obama’s choices, most notably the Democratic president’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Republicans refused to even hold a hearing on Garland, insisting in February 2016 that the president chosen months later in November should fill the court vacancy.
Republican senators also blocked 18 Obama nominees by refusing to sign off on a so-called blue slip, thus signaling their opposition. Democrats became so frustrated with the use of the filibuster to block Obama’s court nominees that they voted in 2013 to lower the threshold for overcoming the filibuster from 60 votes to a simple majority. Republicans expanded the threshold covering district and appellate court judges to Supreme Court nominations earlier this year in response to Democratic opposition to Trump’s pick of Neil Gorsuch for the high court.
“It’s incredibly rich that Republicans are now accusing the Democrats of obstructionism,” said Daniel Goldberg, legal director at the Alliance For Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group.
Trump has had nine federal judges confirmed so far, including Gorsuch and four circuit court judges. In comparison, Obama had five judges confirmed at this stage of his presidency, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and one appellate court judge.
Obama got off to a much slower start in nominating judges than Trump has. Obama had nominated one Supreme Court justice and 24 appellate and district court nominees at this stage compared to one Supreme Court justice and 57 appellate and district court nominees for Trump.
Still, conservatives have been frustrated with the pace in the Republican-controlled Senate and blamed McConnell. The Judicial Crisis Network threatened to run ads against McConnell but backed off after winning assurances from the Kentucky Republican that the pace will quicken.
More than legislation, filling lifetime posts on the courts is a presidential legacy that reverberates for decades.
President Ronald Reagan secured the most judicial confirmations among the recent two-term presidents with 402. President Bill Clinton secured 387 judicial appointments, followed by George W. Bush at 340, and Obama at 334, according to statistics maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
McConnell has scheduled a vote on the nomination of Trevor McFadden of Virginia, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department, to serve as a district judge. The Senate also will hold a procedural vote on moving ahead on the nomination of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney…