Biden hits 100 judicial confirmations, outpacing Trump and Obama
The Senate confirmed President Biden’s 100th federal judicial nominee on Tuesday, outpacing his two most recent predecessors.
Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have led a speedy push to confirm diverse, liberal nominees in the closely divided Senate after Republicans notched several momentous legal victories enabled by their conservative judicial picks, including decisions on abortion and guns.
Biden’s pace of judicial confirmations outruns the number of judges confirmed under former Presidents Trump and Obama at this point in their administrations. Senate Republicans confirmed Trump’s 100th nominee in May 2019, outpacing the Obama administration but taking about two-and-a-half months longer than Biden.
“Today, because of the work done by this majority, our federal judiciary is far more balanced, far more diverse, far more experienced than the one we had just two years ago, and it’s something every American can be proud of,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Senate Democrats reached the milestone of 100 confirmed Article III judges by confirming Gina Méndez-Miró to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
Biden has now secured confirmations for 30 appeals court judges and 69 district court judges. He has also successfully nominated one associate justice — Ketanji Brown Jackson — to the Supreme Court.
“Since long before the inauguration, I directed my team to make judicial confirmations a leading priority of this administration, and they acted quickly to begin consultations with Senators from both parties about how we could be as productive as possible,” Biden said in a statement. “And we certainly have been productive.”
Jackson’s confirmation, however, didn’t significantly shift the high court’s conservative slant cemented under Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Jackson replaced one of the court’s retiring liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer, leaving in place the court’s 6-3 conservative majority that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The high court is now again considering a number of politically charged cases, including two challenges to Biden’s student debt relief plan that will be heard later this month. The court is also considering pending cases challenging federal wetland regulations, affirmative action and Alabama’s congressional maps, among others.
Against the backdrop of liberals’ anger at the recent string of high court decisions, Biden has made diversifying the federal bench a hallmark of his appointments. Méndez-Miró will become the first LGBTQ judge to serve on Puerto Rico’s federal trial bench, Schumer noted.
“The first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Ketanji Brown Jackson! By the way, more appellate court judges who are Black women than every other president combined. Every other president combined,” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee event earlier this month.
Progressive groups have also pressured Biden to grow professional diversity among federal judgeships by nominating more public defenders and civil rights lawyers.
“These judges are the kind of heavy hitters who until now rarely made it to the federal bench,” Schumer said on Tuesday. “We Democrats are proud, very proud, that we’re changing that.”
Most of Biden’s nominees were confirmed in a 50-50 Senate makeup, but his three most recent confirmations came with additional breathing room for Democrats after they gained one seat in the midterm elections.
But the path to filling many of the 91 current vacancies would still require Republican cooperation, under Senate tradition.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has resisted pressure from the left to reform the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, which allows a senator to block a federal judicial nominee appointed to a court in his or her home state as a matter of senatorial courtesy.
Dozens of judicial vacancies remain without a nominee, and the tradition led to the sinking of William Pocan, whom Biden nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) declined to return a blue slip for Pocan.
Republicans who have given support to some of Biden’s nominees have at times faced criticism.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has long prided himself on his bipartisan approach to confirming judicial nominees, came under fire from a leading conservative judicial advocacy group after voting to advance a batch of Biden’s nominees.
“The professional, racial, and gender diversity of his nominees is unmatched, and it will set the bar for all future presidents,” Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Now, we need Sen. Durbin to ensure Senate Republicans’ abuse of the blue slip tradition won’t stop President Biden from appointing even more judges in the second half of his term,” the statement continued.
— Updated at 1:50 p.m.
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