While the media and the politicians chase the news cycle, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell keep on moving forward with a generational project.
The last time we checked in on the status of Trump’s judicial nominees on March 7, 2019, we noted that the confirmation steamroller kept on rolling, even as the news cycle shifted from drama to drama almost daily, Republicans continue reshaping federal judiciary, though you probably are focused on Democrat anti-Semitism:
Much focus the past week has been on the anti-Semitic accusations of dual and disloyalty from Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar, backed by the progressive wing of the party, particularly Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Democrats not only have been unable to deal with it, they connived to water down a planned resolution condemning the recent anti-Semitic outbursts of Omar.
This Corbynization of the Democrat Party got all the attention, but but there was other news mostly under the media radar: Republicans in the Senate continued to confirm judicial nominees over Democrat protests, and the pace may pick up.
Since then, Trump “flipped” the 3d Circuit, if you want to view it the way the media has viewed it. Axios reported,Trump flips appeals court previously dominated by Dem appointees:
The Senate on Tuesday voted largely along party lines to confirm Paul Matey — who served as deputy chief of counsel to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) during the Bridgegate scandal — to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that has handled cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The big picture: Matey is the 35th circuit nominee to be confirmed under President Trump, a historic number at this point in his presidency, amid ongoing Republican efforts to impose a conservative imprint on the federal judiciary. Matey’s confirmation marks the first time Trump flipped an appeals court previously dominated by Democratic presidents’ nominees, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) breaking with his party and voting in favor the nominee. The Third Circuit now has a 7-6 majority of GOP picks and 1 pending vacancy.
Matey was confirmed over the objections of his home state Senators:
Matey, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, is the third judge Trump has placed on the court and the second one Senate Republicans have confirmed despite objections from home state Democrats. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) last year unsuccessfully tried to stop Judge David Porter from being seated.
New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker questioned Matey’s legal views and said they were not consulted by the White House, but Matey was confirmed Tuesday in a 54-45 vote. One Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in favor while all other senators stuck to their party line.
Richard Wolf in USA Today wrote of this 3d Circuit development in domino-theory terms, Trump’s conservative judges begin takeover of federal appeals courts:
At the critical appeals court level, where more than 50,000 cases are heard annually, Trump has replaced 23 judges named by Republican presidents and 12 named by Democrats.
Dan Goldberg, legal director at the liberal Alliance for Justice, noted that many of the appeals court judges Trump has had confirmed filled vacancies that Senate Republicans refused to fill near the end of the Obama administration. In some cases, the Trump judges were opposed by home-state Democratic senators.
“They are confirming more judges per year than any other president in history,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, citing Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider home-state opposition.
In addition to the Third Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, with jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama, offers conservatives hope. It has gone from having a solid majority of judges named by Democrats to a 6-6 tie.
Six other appeals courts have a majority of Democratic presidents’ nominees; four have a majority of Republican presidents’ nominees.
“The Third Circuit Is only the first of several circuit courts of appeal that are likely to flip from majority Democrat-appointed to majority Republican-appointed during Trump’s presidency,” said Elliot Mincberg, senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal group that has opposed most of his nominees.
Trump also pushed ahead deeper into hostile territory, as ABC News reported, Trump, ignoring Democratic senators, set to name 2 judges in California:
It has opposed President Donald Trump’s policy changes on asylum seekers, stood in the way of his travel ban and even blocked his effort to defund sanctuary cities.
The rulings, all by judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, have produced repeated presidential tongue-lashings.
Now, as the president continues his record-setting pace of filling vacancies on the federal bench — something that will leave a lasting imprint on American jurisprudence for years to come — Trump is poised to fill two vacant seats in California on the 9th Circuit Court, despite objections of the state’s two Democratic senators.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, who’s seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, have voiced their repeated opposition to nominees Daniel Collins and Kenneth Lee. The two senators have attempted to withhold their approval, something that historically might have amounted to a senatorial veto.
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is moving forward with a confirmation hearing for both men on Wednesday, ignoring the fact that both senators failed to return what are called “blue slips.”
Kenneth Lee was particularly impressive in his hearing testimony:
Another key appeals court nominee, Neomi Rao, was confirmed. Democrats and activist groups tried to savage her with distortions about her college writings precisely because she is considered a potential future Supreme Court nominee. We wrote about the attacks, Dems are trying to Bork and Kavanaugh appeals court nominee Neomi Rao. The Rao confirmation was a particularly bitter pill for Democrats because she replaced Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit.
But wait, there’s more!
Senate Republicans are again threatening to modify the rules to put an end to abusive Democrat delay — and this time they may actually do it, as The Hill reports:
The backlash over circuit court picks comes as Republicans are mulling using the “nuclear option” to reduce debate time for hundreds of Trump’s nominees, a move that would allow them to implement a significant rule change with only a simple majority.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber.
McConnell suggested during a press conference last week that while he would prefer to have both parties support the rule change, he is prepared for Republicans to go it alone.
“We’re still hoping to have bipartisan support to go forward with the standing order, which would require 60 votes. In the absence of that, it still my desire to try to achieve that, and that’s an issue we’ll have — a discussion we’ll have among Republicans,” he told reporters during a weekly press conference.
The rule change would reduce the amount of debate time required after a nominee clears the first procedural hurdle on the floor. Debate would go from 30 hours down to as little as two hours for district court picks and hundreds of executive nominees.
Supreme Court nominees, circuit court picks, Cabinet nominees and appointees for roughly a dozen independent boards would be exempt from the proposed rule change.
So while the media and the politicians chase the news cycle, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell keep on moving forward with a generational project.