While most of the political media is doing end-zone dances to celebrate the electoral college results and looking forward to Joe Biden’s inauguration, work is still quietly taking place in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Time is running out for the current edition of Congress, but Midnight Mitch still has some work in front of him. This seems to horrify some of the reporters at NBC News, who perhaps thought that the entire Republican Party had simply disappeared yesterday. But McConnell has a few more judges to confirm on behalf of President Trump, pushing the Senate’s already legendary record of hammering through confirmations to even greater levels. And as the linked analysis points out, this is going to produce a lasting effect in support of conservative principles that will be with us long after Donald Trump has left the field of battle.
While President Donald Trump continues to make noise about the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is quietly using the final days of Trump’s administration to make one last push to transform the judiciary and seal the president’s legacy.
In just four years, Trump has outpaced previous presidents and selected more than 1 in every 4 federal judges, including one-third of the Supreme Court. And these judges are unlike jurists selected by his predecessors. They were picked with a unique formula: young and ideologically conservative.
“These appointees to the bench serve life tenure and, as a result, they will be shaping jurisprudence in our country for the next two generations,” said Leonard Leo, a conservative legal advocate and top adviser to the Trump administration on selecting judges.
I’m not sure what some of these people expected to happen. There were still openings to fill and this has been one of the hallmarks of Donald Trump’s presidency. The President has maintained and regularly updated his list of young, conservative judges and has been submitting names for every opening on the bench at the federal level. His partnership with Cocaine Mitch has resulted in a steady flow of new appointees at rates unseen during previous administrations.
Whether Donald Trump runs for another term in office in 2024 or not, he has already cemented his legacy in this area. Many of his accomplishments in areas such as border control and fighting liberal trends toward globalization will sadly be undone by the next administration, some with little more than the stroke of a pen on a pile of executive orders. But these young judges will be around for a generation or more. Challenges to liberal overreach in the nation’s courts should meet with success more often than failure and Trump’s imprint on the judicial system will remain.
The big shadow hanging over all of this is the immediate future of the Supreme Court. One-third of the current justices are Trump appointees and conservatives can generally view this makeup as representing a five and a half to three and a half conservative majority. (Given John Roberts’ recent record, we can’t really count him as a full conservative vote.) It’s a safe bet that Breyer (age 82) will retire either this year or next to ensure that Joe Biden (or Kamala Harris) gets to nominate his successor. The big question is whether or not Clarence Thomas (age 72) and Samuel Alito (age 70) will hang in there until there’s another Republican president.
Of course, if the GOP can hold at least one of the seats in the Georgia runoff elections next month, Biden’s options may be more limited. He’ll still be able to get judges confirmed without a Senate majority, albeit more slowly, but any picks that appear to seriously veer off into socialist territory could potentially be blocked. Keep your fingers crossed on that score. The future of conservatism in America is currently leaning far more heavily on the judicial branch than either the executive or legislative branches.