The Senate approved a package of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees Thursday, notching another 15 confirmations just days after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was installed on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The confirmations came as half a dozen Democratic lawmakers, particularly those in red states, were pressed to return home to defend their Senate seats for the final stretch before the November midterm elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seized on the opportunity and made Democrats an offer: The Senate would adjourn until after the midterm elections, provided Democrats don’t force the full 30 hours of debate allowed for each nominee.
Democratic leaders were left at an impasse: They could keep their caucus in the Capitol to oppose the nominees—effectively ceding the campaign trail to Republican challengers—or confirm Trump’s judges briskly and risk alienating their supporters.
Democrats elected the latter course, to the relief of vulnerable senators who said the nominees would have been confirmed before the election anyway.
“If we stayed here for two or three weeks, we’d probably have done the same thing,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told Politico. “I think it’s good.”
Still, condemnation from progressive interest groups was swift.
“This deal was totally unnecessary and it is a bitter pill to swallow so soon after the Kavanaugh fight that so many progressive activists poured their hearts and souls into,” said Chris Kang, chief counsel of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group. “This period will be long remembered not just for the historic number of judges Trump has been able to confirm, but also because of how passive Democrats were in response.”
The nominees approved Thursday include Richard Sullivan for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, David Porter for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ryan Nelson for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and 12 district judges for federal trial courts in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
The 2nd Circuit hears appeals arising from Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. The 3rd Circuit covers Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; while the 9th Circuit encompasses Alaska, the West Coast, and the Southwest border states. Circuit courts issue final judgment in the overwhelming majority of federal cases.
With these confirmations, the Senate has confirmed 84 Trump nominees to the federal bench: 53 trial judges, 29 appeals judges, and two Supreme Court justices.
Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded eight nominees to the full Senate for final floor action.
Trump set a record for appeals court confirmations during the first year of a presidency in January 2017.
McConnell posted a gleeful tweet following the confirmations.
Have a great weekend everyone! pic.twitter.com/tTtLGN8ove
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) October 11, 2018
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