Democrats can’t touch President Trump when it comes to appointing conservative judges to federal courts. As much as they try to fight and “resist,” the majority which Republicans hold in the Senate allows Trump to continue to add conservative judges.
Subsequently, Trump looks to follow up a historic first year – where he appointed an unprecedented number of appellate judges – by continuing to add to the federal judiciary.
This week, the Senate is set to approve another six judicial nominees, as Reuters reports, much to the dismay of Democrats. Notably, four of the judges come from states that have at least one Democratic senator.
The slight edge that Republicans have in the Senate will allow them to confirm these conservatives, provided no conservatives waver in the confirmation vote.
A long-standing Senate tradition that gave senators clout over judicial nominees from their home states has been fraying for years, meaning Democrats have less of a chance of blocking appointees they oppose, as they did with some success during Republican former President George W. Bush’s administration.
One of those due for consideration on the Senate floor this week is Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan, who Trump has nominated for a vacant seat on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over a region that includes Wisconsin. One of Wisconsin’s two senators, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, opposes Brennan’s confirmation.
Another important test will come at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Ryan Bounds, a federal prosecutor from Oregon nominated by Trump to fill a seat on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oregon’s two senators, both Democrats, oppose the nomination.
Brennan, Bounds and other Trump nominees who may be opposed by home-state Democratic senators are likely to win confirmation because of the Republicans’ 51-49 Senate majority.
As Reuters reiterates, the importance of the judges Trump is nominating could have a longstanding impact:
Trump has made quick progress in reshaping federal appeals courts, winning Senate confirmation of 15 nominees to fill vacancies on federal appeals courts. Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama won confirmation of nine appeals court judges by the same point in his first term.
Trump also has been picking a raft of conservative jurists for lower federal courts and won Senate confirmation last year of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
The regional appeals courts play a major role in shaping U.S. law. The judges hear appeals from federal district courts and usually have the final say, as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up only a tiny proportion of cases.
The judges could play a crucial role as ongoing arguments concerning gun rights and ownership and arguments concerning free speech on college campuses continue.
As Reuters reports, sometimes there are consensus picks between the president and Democrat senators:
Hawaii’s two Democratic senators back a Trump nominee to the 9th Circuit. The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, has so far held fire on Richard Sullivan, Trump’s nominee to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Michigan’s two Democratic senators voted in November to confirm Joan Larsen to the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Liberal activists doubt the White House is serious about compromise on judicial nominations.
“Those few examples show that when Democratic home state senators are consulted in good faith, they are not looking for progressive judges,” said Christopher Kang, who worked on judicial nominations in Obama’s White House.
“They understand that President Trump is going to appoint conservative judges but they are willing to work in good faith to find consensus nominees,” Kang added.