“The number is large, but the quality of the candidate is even more important,” said Senate Judicial Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “So we support and ensure that those who appear before the committee are ready to serve.”
Durbin added that he was urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to “move our judges as quickly as possible”. And the party is careful, despite Biden taking office with fewer vacancies than the man he defeated. If Democrats needed a reminder of the urgency of their judicial confirmation efforts, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to provide him with his promise on Monday to block any Supreme Court appointments Biden made in 2024 if the GOP takes over the majority.
Trump inherited 112 vacant judicial positions, including a Supreme Court seat opened by McConnell in 2016. There are currently 82 federal judicial vacancies, and Biden has so far announced 19 candidates.
“We are moving very quickly,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), A member of the judicial panel. “We are going to fill as many vacancies as there are. You can’t move Trump appointees, but we’ll fill any vacancies. ”
Highlighting the Democrats’ emphasis on quality – including diversity – as equal to quantity in Biden’s judicial roster, his top 19 judicial picks include zero white men. In addition to Jackson – whose eventual selection would meet Biden’s campaign pledge to bring in a black woman for the Supreme Court – the president appealed to the first confirmed Muslim judge on the federal bench to Zahid Quraishi, confirmed this week last.
The pressure to confirm Biden’s judges comes as the federal judiciary becomes a growing political issue for the left. In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, the expansion of the Supreme Court became a litmus test for candidates. And after watching then Majority Leader McConnell treat Trump’s judges in a clip that only rivaled former President Jimmy Carter’s administration, progressive activists say Democratic senators are moving faster than in Obama’s day.
“There were a lot of concerns or complaints about the pace of President Obama’s nominees and a lot of it goes to Democratic senators for not making recommendations fast enough,” said Christopher Kang, chief counsel for the Liberal group Demand. Justice. “We don’t see this problem materializing at this time. ”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, predicted Democrats could “easily” catch up with Trump on the judges. Biden’s party “treats them at about the same rate as we do,” Grassley noted.
“I am keen to push through Biden’s priorities,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), citing infrastructure, voting rights and immigration reform. But she added that at the moment, she is “less worried” about judicial confirmations.
But Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Described it as a “big order” given the abnormal number of vacancies Trump had and the need to spend time processing applications.
“You need a lot of lead,” Hawley said. “Sen. McConnell, when he was Majority Leader, that was probably, I think, his top priority. So he cleared the floor for that.
Biden’s impact on federal justice will only garner more attention in the weeks to come, with the Supreme Court’s tenure coming to an end and all eyes on Justice Stephen Breyer’s future. While a retreat from Breyer and a subsequent appointment from Biden would maintain the Conservative 6-3 majority in the High Court, Progressives are quick to point out that the Democrats’ grip on the 50-50 Senate is fragile as ‘they are pushing the 82-year-old justice to withdraw to make room for a younger lawyer.
While some Senate Democrats are privately hoping Breyer will step down, the Liberals are also concerned that a public push in that direction could backfire – as many believed with Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2014. Ginsberg said in the face of the pressure of retirement that year she didn’t believe Senate Republicans would allow “someone like me” confirmation; Breyer, on the other hand, would see a former office worker as his potential replacement if Jackson advances, as is widely expected.
Although Jackson received bipartisan support on the Senate Judiciary Committee, only three Republicans voted for her: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (RS.C.). And while Jackson’s confirmation hearing didn’t set off any fireworks, members of both sides concede that this doesn’t necessarily indicate how a Supreme Court confirmation would play out, given the stakes in the High. Court.
“Are you saying, are we going to be as bad as the Democrats were?” Asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.), A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who supported Jackson in committee but has voted against its final confirmation. . “There will be a thorough and thorough examination of any candidate who might be. “
Democrats’ race to confirm Biden’s lower court judges in the coming weeks will benefit from a rule change Senate Republicans established in 2019, using the so-called “nuclear option” to change the rules of the chamber with a simple majority vote. Citing democratic obstructions, the GOP cut debate time to two hours from 30 hours for district court judges, allowing the majority to go much faster on confirmations.
In the 116th Congress alone, Republicans confirmed 121 district court judges, bringing their total to 174 approved district judges over Trump’s four years. After losing a majority in the House in 2018, Republicans adopted an even more intense focus on candidates for the executive and the judiciary. Democrats could end up in the same direction if they retain the Senate but lose the House midway through 2022.
As they describe the change in climate surrounding judicial confirmations, members of both sides point to McConnell’s keen personal interest in the matter during his tenure as majority leader. This resolute will led the Democrats to denounce the Senate as a “legislative cemetery”.
The 2019 rule change isn’t the only Republican move to boost the Democrats’ judicial confirmation work. Durbin also maintains the same process as the GOP when it comes to so-called “blue slips,” which essentially grants home state senators a veto over judicial candidates.
Like Grassley and Graham, his predecessors at the head of the judicial panel, Durbin keeps blue cards for district court candidates, but removes them for the choices of circuit courts that oversee multiple states. Progressives are pushing to do away with the tradition altogether, but this proposal has not yet caught on.