Se­nate to step up ju­di­cial con­fir­ma­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - KEVIN FREKING

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., set the stage for votes on four of the pres­i­dent’s ap­pel­late court nom­i­nees and one district court nom­i­nee start­ing Mon­day night. 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.

The first nom­i­nee was Trevor McFad­den of Vir­ginia, whom the Se­nate con­firmed by a vote of 84-10. Arkansas Repub­li­can Sens. John Booz­man and Tom Cot­ton both voted to ap­prove con­fir­ma­tion. He will serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

McFad­den has served in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion as a deputy as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral.

In­clud­ing McFad­den, Trump has had nine fed­eral judges con­firmed so far, in­clud­ing Supreme Court Jus­tice Neil 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.

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.

The Se­nate also will hold a pro­ce­dural vote on mov­ing ahead on the nom­i­na­tion of Notre Dame law pro­fes­sor Amy Coney Bar­rett to serve on the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 7th Cir­cuit.

“We are hav­ing to spend 30 hours on the clo­ture of a district judge,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. “I have been here 21 years now, and I have never heard of that. We have to get the ap­point­ments through. That is one of our prime jobs, to pro­vide ad­vice and con­sent for the pres­i­dent, and it is not hap­pen­ing on a timely ba­sis.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Repub­li­cans were rush­ing through judges who only re­cently passed the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. He said the Se­nate has tra­di­tion­ally given mem­bers not on the com­mit­tee more time to eval­u­ate nom­i­nees and ques­tioned the rea­son­ing be­hind not do­ing so now.

“One can ar­gue it’s be­cause the Repub­li­can agenda has been such a fail­ure in this Congress, the leader has cho­sen to try and ac­com­plish through the courts what Repub­li­cans have been un­able to achieve through the leg­isla­tive process,” Schumer said.

Con­ser­va­tive groups are push­ing hard for Bar­rett’s con­fir­ma­tion, and crit­i­cized Democrats for ques­tion­ing whether her Catholic be­liefs would in­flu­ence her le­gal de­ci­sions. The U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops said the chal­lenge to Bar­rett was a painful re­minder of a time when “anti-Catholic big­otry did dis­tort our laws and civil or­der.”

Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, the top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­cial Com­mit­tee, said Bar­rett had no ex­pe­ri­ence as a judge and worked on only one trial be­fore be­com­ing a pro­fes­sor. She re­jected the no­tion that she was ap­ply­ing a re­li­gious test in Bar­rett’s con­fir­ma­tion, say­ing, “I think that has been ex­ag­ger­ated out of any re­al­ity.”

But Charles Grass­ley, the Repub­li­can chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, dis­agreed. “Some of the com­ments and ques­tions from my Demo­cratic col­leagues crossed the line,” Grass­ley said at a news con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

McCon­nell also moved to limit de­bate on Michi­gan Supreme Court Jus­tice Joan Larsen to serve as a cir­cuit judge, along with Colorado Supreme Court Jus­tice Al­li­son Eid and Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia law pro­fes­sor Stephanos Bibas. Larsen and Eid were on the short list of can­di­dates for the Supreme Court that Trump re­leased last year on his way to win­ning the GOP nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

AP/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Grass­ley, R-Iowa, joined by (from left) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, dis­cusses his panel’s plan Mon­day on Capi­tol Hill to move for­ward on four of the pres­i­dent’s ap­pel­late court nom­i­nees and one district court nom­i­nee this week.

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