Why Are Democrats Poised to Let 7 Trump-Nominated Judges Slide to Confirmation?

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As the shamefully muted fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court mumbles on, there’s a bigger story playing out that’s even easier to miss: Democrats, now and for decades, have been shamefully outpaced by Republicans in their war for the judiciary. The staunchly conservative Federalist Society has an iron grip over Republican judicial nominations, and the Republicans have cheerfully thrown out all pretense of following procedure on SCOTUS vacancies, blocking Merrick Garland under the pretense of it being an election year while going full steam ahead with Kavanaugh. But Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have also spent years blocking the confirmations of lower-level judges, leaving more unfilled judgeships in the last Congress than any time since 1952—and a huge opportunity for President Trump.


Since he took office, Trump has appointed more federal appeals court judges than former Presidents Obama and Bush had at the same point in their administrations combined. As the Pew Research Center noted earlier this year, Trump had trailed his predecessors in appointing district court judges until today, when Senator Chuck Schumer helpfully struck a deal with the Republicans to confirm seven district court judges, plus four other federal appointees. As reported Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reported:

According to Kapur, this will bring Trump’s total number of confirmed district court judges to 33. These are lifetime appointments, meaning Trump nominees will shape the judiciary for years to come, long after he dies on the toilet, mid-tweet. Earlier this month, McConnell warned that the Senate would not be able to go home for recess until it had confirmed 12 judges.

Chris Kang, chief counsel at the left-leaning judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, told Splinter on Tuesday that these judges will have vast influence over the law, saying: “While we tend to focus the most on the Supreme Court, almost every single federal case—from reproductive rights and worker protections to LGBTQ equality and preserving healthcare—starts in the district courts, which is where these judges will sit. They will issue rulings that are often the final word or shape the cases before they reach the Supreme Court.”

So the question remains: What is the deal? I mean, literally—what did Democrats receive in return for dropping their filibuster of these nominees? Is it simply so they can go home and resume campaigning for the midterms over Labor Day weekend? Is that where the Democrats are today, so utterly defeated that they’ll accept 11 lifetime conservative judges for a few extra days of campaigning? One of the nominees up for confirmation today, Susan Baxter, is an Obama appointee who waited without confirmation for two years and was renominated in December. Is that...it?

No one seems to know! Splinter requested comment from Schumer’s office and has not received a response. If you’d like to ask Chuck what the tits he’s doing, his number is (202) 224-6542.

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com