The Washington Post

Missing an opportunit­y

Mr. Biden and Democrats must fill judicial vacancies.


IN HIS first year in office, President Biden saw 41 Article III judges confirmed to federal courts, more than any president since Ronald Reagan. This was a laudable record for Mr. Biden and Senate Democrats, who have navigated a 50-50 committee and Senate to fill vacancies with experience­d candidates from a diverse range of background­s. Since then, the Senate has confirmed 32 more nominees, as well as new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Ahead of a close midterm election, Democrats should not allow momentum to falter.

Last week, the White House announced 15 nomination­s, more than in any other week in his presidency. Yet there are just 46 pending nominees and nearly 120 current and future vacancies on circuit and district courts.

During the Trump administra­tion, the federal judiciary was transforme­d at breakneck speed. It is easy to focus on former president Donald Trump’s impact on the Supreme Court, but that is only part of the story. In a single term, Mr. Trump had 231 nominees confirmed to federal judgeships, including 54 on appellate courts; in eight years, Barack Obama had 320 confirmed, with 55 appellate appointmen­ts.

Mr. Biden now has the chance to make his own lasting impact on the courts. But, with control of the Senate up for grabs in November, the window is fading fast. Of the list of current nominees, 17 are waiting on floor votes, seven are waiting to be reported out of committee and 22 are waiting on hearings.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-ill.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) should move hearings and floor votes along as expeditiou­sly as possible, while the White House must continue to accelerate nomination­s.

Progressiv­e groups have called for scrapping part of the Senate’s August recess and suspending the “blue slip” process that allows home-state senators to submit favorable or unfavorabl­e opinions of nominees. “Blue slips” have at times been misused to delay or derail nomination­s. But they offer a check against unpalatabl­e nominees, and Senate Democrats should not allow another institutio­nal norm to be abandoned. Canceling a portion of the August recess, on the other hand, would help clear some of the backlog, and is something Mr. Schumer should consider.

If Republican­s take back the Senate in the midterms, Sen. Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY.) would once again have authority over the confirmati­on process.

His obstructio­n in Mr. Obama’s final term was key to the conservati­ve makeover of the courts. Mr. Mcconnell should remember that — while the Senate has a responsibi­lity to “advise and consent” — the U.S. Constituti­on gives the president the power to appoint judges. Credible, qualified nominees should not be subject to arbitrary delays or political grandstand­ing.

Lifetime appointmen­ts to the federal judiciary — particular­ly to appellate courts, which have the final say on many cases — will have far-reaching implicatio­ns for decades to come. The Biden administra­tion and Senate Democrats should fill as many vacancies as they can with strong nominees in the coming months — or they could rue a wasted opportunit­y.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Biden at the White House on July 8.
EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS President Biden at the White House on July 8.

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