Senate clears 96 judicial nominations after rule change

Despite a lack of legislative accomplishments, the Senate confirmed more judges than any other modern Congress.

During the 113th, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHispanic Caucus PAC looks to flex its muscles in 2016 Say NO to PROMESA, say NO to Washington overreach Overnight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back MORE (D-Nev.) made it a top priority to clear President Obama’s nominations — several of which filled vacancies in courts with judicial emergencies. His office said the 113th Congress confirmed 132 judges overall.

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“Throughout the 113th Congress, Senate Democrats have focused on confirming well-qualified judicial nominees to relieve the judge shortage plaguing our nation’s justice system," Reid said Wednesday. "Despite unprecedented obstruction, today’s statistics show that Senate Democrats were able to overcome political gridlock and confirm the highest number of district and circuit court judges in a single Congress in over thirty years."

Reid took heat in November 2013 for using the “nuclear option” to change the filibuster rules for most nominations. But because of the rule change, he was able to clear 96 judges with a majority vote instead of the previously required 60 votes needed to end debate.

The Republican Party is debating whether it should reverse the filibuster rules or keep them the same. In addition to allowing a majority to advance most nominations, the changes also reduced the amount of debate time required.

The Democratic leader kept the Senate in session a week longer than he originally wanted in order to get a deal from Republicans to clear dozens more nominations on the executive calendar. Between Friday and Tuesday night, the Senate confirmed 69 nominees — including 12 judicial nominations.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tried to block the last of the judicial nominees because he said it was unprecedented to do so in a lame-duck session. He said newly elected senators should have a say. In the end he caved so senators could leave town to celebrate the holidays at home.

Many have dubbed the 113th Congress as the “do-nothing Congress.” Only about 280 bills will become law.

— This article was updated at 4 p.m.

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