With the 2020 election looming, President Donald Trump’s popularity in the toilet, and the GOP still in control of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focusing on securing lasting conservative influence by pushing through as many of Trump’s judicial nominees as possible before time runs out.
While McConnell has highly prioritized court appointments during Trump’s first two years in office, he’s planning on expediting the process using the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules with a simple majority, allowing them to confirm judges at an even faster clip, Politico reported on Wednesday.
“The committee is working to put [judges] out on the floor and as soon as they come to the floor the leader’s making it a priority to move them,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a top McConnell ally, told the site. “It’ll be a high priority for the foreseeable future. I mean, it’s one of the things we can do that we don’t need the House’s help with.”
With the Senate likely to confirm Trump’s 34th Circuit Court judge pick next week and three more Trump nominees ready for the floor, Trump will have about 20 percent of Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years, according to Politico, leaving few vacancies for a possible Democratic White House in 2021. And while Trump and McConnell have slacked on filling the 128 District Court vacancies, filling those slots in the next 20 months would certainly be possible with a simple majority.
The Democrats are blustering about how none of this is fair, but it’s clear Senate Republicans couldn’t care less. From Politico:
“My answer to them is restore the blue slips and then maybe we can come to a compromise,” Schumer said, adding that he had spoken to several GOP senators about it. “They’re eroding democracy, they’re eroding bipartisanship and sooner or later, they’ll regret it.”
Republicans scoffed at Schumer’s offer.
“We can get what we need without giving Democratic senators a veto on home-state circuit judges, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The longtime GOP leader [McConnell] accused Democrats Tuesday of “mindless obstruction” and said he hopes to overhaul the rules under the regular procedure, which requires 67 votes. But McConnell also suggested he’s ready to move forward even if Democrats do not support the change: “In the absence of [bipartisanship], it’s still my desire to try to achieve that.”
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford told Politico the rules change is likely to happen this month, and Minority Whip Dick Durbin called McConnell’s maneuvering “dramatic and historic.” If Democrats don’t fight these judicial nominees tooth and nail, the Republicans’ remaking courts absolutely will have historic implications for this country—which the rest of us will be living with for decades to come.