Not to sound like a broken record, but this is still happening: the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee is still ramming through President Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal bench, setting up easy confirmations after the midterm elections.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer agreed on a deal earlier this month to let 15 Trump-nominated federal judges get confirmed by Republicans in exchange for allowing the many embattled Senate Democrats to go home to campaign. Last week, the Republicans essentially said “fuck you and your truce” and kept holding hearings for the nominees, even though practically no one was around to ask questions. And folks, it’s still going on.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has held two hearings in the past week, despite virtually every senator being back home ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. Even Grassley wasn’t at his hearings: Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) chaired the first one, last week, and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) chaired Wednesday’s hearing.
Not a single Democrat could attend either hearing. Only one other Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), was present. That means, between those two hearings, that three of Trump’s circuit court nominees and seven of his district court nominees sailed through without any real questions. The committee will likely vote to advance their nominations sometime after the elections.
Grassley, who wasn’t even there, sent a letter to Democrats last week denying their request to postpone the hearings. “We were scheduled to be in session at that point,” Tom Mentzer, the spokesperson for ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, told HuffPost. “At no time was there an agreement to do this during recess.”
Yesterday’s hearing saw four nominees “questioned” by Crapo and Hatch: Bridget S. Bade and Eric D. Miller for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—a court that’s opposed the Trump administration’s position on a slew of legal battles over the past two years, and which Trump himself has called out by name multiple times—as well as Karin J. Immergut to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Oregon and Richard A. Hertling to the Court of Federal Claims. (Hatch introduced Hertling at the start of his hearing.)
Miller, just to give you a sense of who these people are, is steadfastly opposed by Native tribal organizations, according to HuffPost:
“Our concern is that he chose to build a law practice on mounting repeated challenges to tribal sovereignty, lands, religious freedom, and the core attribute of federal recognition of tribal existence,” reads an August letter to Grassley and Feinstein from the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund. “His advocacy has focused on undermining the rights of Indian tribes, often taking extreme positions and using pejorative language to denigrate tribal rights.”
Miller’s law firm has developed such a reputation for going after tribal rights that one native leader described the firm, Perkins Coie, as the go-to destination for jurisdictions that want “to fight an Indian tribe.”
The hearing for the four nominees—all of whom except for Hertling will receive lifetime appointments to their courts—lasted all of about 40 minutes. Hatch’s line of questioning of Miller and Bade consisted of saying that he supported the nominees “fully” and that “we’re going to do everything we can to get you through by the end of the year.”
Where, you might be inclined to ask, is Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in all of this, considering he’s the token Republican on the committee who claims to be concerned about the process? He was writing a statement introducing Bade to the Senate Judiciary Committee, even though he wasn’t there.
His fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl—who, before being appointed to his second stint in the Senate to fill out the term of John McCain, was a major player in helping to move the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh through the Senate—added in his own statement supporting the nominations of Bade and Hertling:
I first of all want to thank Senator Crapo for chairing this hearing. I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee is continuing the important work of considering potential federal judges for confirmation, and I very much appreciate the leadership and hard work of Chairman Grassley and the other members of the committee.
With the help of the Senate, the Trump administration is reshaping the federal court with no regard for norms, the process, decorum, or any of those other lovely ideas that senators love to say that they have grave concerns about but ultimately aren’t legally bound to. This is about power, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.
Correction, 10:03 a.m. ET, 10/26/2018: A previous version of this article erroneously said that all four judges are up for lifetime appointments to their respective courts. Terms on the Court of Federal Claims, which Hertling has been nominated for, last 15 years.