The White House is rushing to appoint as many judges as possible before 2020 to give President Donald Trump yet another talking point he can rally on as he stumps for re-election.
Trump’s team believes that stacking the judicial system with conservative judges galvanizes the base, demonstrates his ability to follow through on a 2016 campaign promise and will help win over crucial 2020 states like Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. And Trump himself is convinced that judicial appointments are central to both his legacy and policy agenda, as he has pushed for young judges who can serve for decades, according to former administration aides, close White House advisers and those familiar with the administration’s judicial plans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has done everything he can to help quicken the pace, changing procedural rules to limit debate time and lower the voting threshold Supreme Court justices must clear to get approved. In just the last six weeks, the Senate will have confirmed 15 judges, aided by a recent debate-limiting tweak.
“Obviously that’s going to be one of the most lasting legacies of the Trump administration and the next 25 to 30 years,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I think it’ll remain a priority especially when our Democratic colleagues don’t seem too interested in legislating, particularly in the House.”
“President Trump totally gets it from the standpoint that is a transactional item needed to win support from the base,” said one close White House adviser.
Already the Senate has confirmed more than 100 of the president’s nominees to the federal bench, including two Supreme Court Justices and 40 circuit court judges. Outside conservative groups and donors want the pace to move as quickly as possible.
It’s a troubling situation to left-leaning strategists who say the Trump administration and Senate leadership has broken tradition with both their selection of judges and the process of confirming them.
“I am not sure how they can speed it up anymore,” said Daniel Goldberg, legal director at the left-leaning Alliance for Justice. “Mitch McConnell has already eroded almost every rule and norm to expedite Trump’s far-right judges with as little transparency and vetting as possible.”