President Trump is quite pleased with his new best friend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he should be. McConnell has made it his mission during the Trump administration to push through a number of judicial nominations that rival Trump’s predecessors.
It was time to stop and smell the roses. During days that are filled with the constant drumbeat of Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, celebrating the success of McConnell’s efforts in the Senate is a good opportunity to change the conversation. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Attorney General Barr, and Senate Republicans gathered in the East Room to pat themselves on the back and do a little crowing.
It is an impressive record so far. Trump noted that the total to date is a “profoundly historic milestone” with confirmations. Total confirmations have risen past 150 and are expected to soon reach 182. That is music to the ears of Republican voters.
The president has worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to fill the federal bench with young conservative judges during his first three years in office, an effort that has been embraced by Republican voters.
To date, Mr. Trump has seen more than 150 judicial nominees confirmed, including two Supreme Court justices and 43 judges for the federal appeals courts, which are the final stop for most cases. By comparison, President Obama at the same point in his first term saw about 40 fewer judges confirmed, including half as many to the appeals courts.
The most important appointments, of course, are the two Supreme Court justices. Democrats lament the conservative tilt of the court now, though the truth is that not much difference has been seen from past sessions, at least not yet. If Trump wins re-election and gets to replace a liberal Supreme Court justice, say, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, then that could be a gamechanger for conservatives. It is very important, too, that Trump is filling vacancies with younger nominees for lifetime appointments. The younger ones are often more conservative than the moderates appointed in the past. The effect of his nominees on the bench will last for decades.
Trump complimented the intestinal fortitude McConnell has shown in sticking with nominees even when the going gets rough – like during the Kavanaugh confirmation process – and McConnell returned the compliments.
“Mr. President, this is one of the many ways you are helping to make America great again,” McConnell said during his time behind the presidential lectern, using part of Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
The majority leader called federal judge posts the “most important thing” that a new GOP president could do, something he said he told Trump early on.
“You’ve been helped by a decision I made and these guys backed me up on: to not fill that [Antonin] Scalia vacancy on the way out the door,” McConnell said to cheers, referring to him blocking Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the conservative justice’s seat.
“And, boy, you didn’t blow it,” McConnell said to Trump before referring to Scalia’s replacement: “Neil Gorsuch is an all-star.”
Trump was in a good mood and joked with some of the senators. He took a jab at Beto O’Rourke as he looked at the senior senator from Texas, John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2020.
The president, who appeared in a jovial mood, joked with his fellow Republicans about the nomination process and even told Sen. John Cornyn of Texas that “nobody’s beat you” in his reelection race. Trump quipped that former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who recently dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, can’t win in the Lone Star State because he opposes religion, guns and oil.
The audience howled laughter.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who has seen new respect from fellow Republicans after his doggedness on behalf of Brett Kavanaugh, thanked Trump for not “pulling the plug” when the process got rough. He said one reason Trump will be re-elected is due to his commitment to fighting for conservative judges.
Graham makes a good point. Many Republican voters supported Trump after he became the nominee for president because he pledged to put conservative judges on the bench. Trump has honored that pledge and continues to do so. After the celebration Wednesday, the senators went back to work and two more confirmation votes were on the agenda.
Best of all, Trump’s success is undoing decades of work by the Democrats to keep the face of the judiciary as a liberal one. Trump is even making inroads with the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That alone is enough to make conservatives smile. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement.
Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) took issue with Mr. Trump’s judicial record Wednesday, saying in remarks on the Senate floor: “I can say with perfect confidence that over the last three years, President Trump has nominated—and Senate Republicans have approved—the most unqualified and radical nominees in my time in this body.”
As long as the Democrats control the House and continue to pass liberal legislation on party-line
votes, there is no reasonable expectation for the Senate to pass the bills and forward them to the president for signature. This frees up McConnell to continue to focus like a laser on judicial confirmations.