President Donald Trump has been bragging about all the lifetime federal judges he’s gotten confirmed so far. He should! It’s a lot.
Look at where Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush were at this point in their terms. Obama hadn’t confirmed nearly as many appeals court or district court judges. Bush had confirmed more district court judges by now, but Trump is way ahead of everyone on appeals court judges ― the people who have the final say in nearly all federal appeals cases around the country. Appeals courts resolve about 50,000 appeals cases per year; the Supreme Court resolves about 100.
Trump’s White House and Senate Republicans made a big push right out of the gate to confirm as many appeals court judges as possible precisely because of the concentrated power that rests with their courts. As a result, nearly 1 in every 4 seats on U.S. appeals courts is now filled by a judge appointed by Trump.
The quantity of Trump’s judges is almost as dramatic as the quality. Republicans have been confirming piles of unqualified and ideologically extreme people to lifetime court seats, many of whom have records of being anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ rights and anti-voting rights. In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) keeps stripping away the few tools typically afforded to the minority, essentially shutting Democrats out of the process.
Since Trump took office, McConnell has blown up the Senate rules so Republicans could easily confirm the president’s Supreme Court picks. He forced another change in the rules to drastically reduce the amount of debate time for Trump’s district court picks. He’s routinely broken from Senate tradition by advancing judicial nominees over the objections of that nominee’s home-state senators.
And under his leadership, the GOP-led Judiciary Committee has stopped honoring “blue slips,” which means senators can no longer single-handedly block judicial nominees from their home states ― something Republicans did all the time when Obama was president.
So where does this leave Democrats? Surely there’s something these United States senators can do to prevent the president from putting problematic, out-of-the-mainstream people all over the nation’s courts.