Trump continues to move federal courts right

September/October 2018

He’s just doing what he promised to do when he campaigned for office in 2016. (It’s actually quite refreshing.)

According to U.S. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), “The most important thing the Senate is involved in is the personnel business” and “most important are the lifetime appointments to the courts.”

Since President Trump took office, nearly two years ago, the Senate has confirmed a total of 69 judicial appointees.

Most notably, Trump’s two nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court have been confirmed. Of the previous six presidents, none appointed more than three during their entire time as president and that was during an eight-year presidency. Three other presidents also served for eight years, but only appointed two justices during that time. Trump has appointed two in two years. There may be opportunity for Trump to appoint a couple more since Justice Ginsburg is 85 and Justice Breyer is 80.

McConnell said that the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh was his proudest accomplishment of his 34 years in the U.S. Senate. Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of only 50 – 48, the narrowest margin in recent history. The last time a vote was so contentious was when Justice Thomas was confirmed by a 52-48 vote in 1991.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation was called into question after several accusations that he committed sexual assault during high school and college. The accusation that got the most attention resulted in a nationally-televised public hearing and a supplemental FBI investigation.

Americans were split on whether to believe Kavanaugh or his accuser, with a significant portion saying both came across as credible. Ultimately, the FBI investigation did not find corroboration of the accusation and the testimony failed to persuade enough Senators to defeat Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The Senate has also confirmed 26 appointees to the Circuit Courts of Appeals during the past two years, exceeding the previous six presidents’ average nine nominees a year. With the Courts of Appeals having the final word on all but 0.14 percent of the parties that come before them, the appointments have a significant impact on the nation’s legal landscape.

It is unclear what impact the contentious Kavanaugh confirmation process and upcoming November 6 mid-term election will have on McConnell’s efforts to confirm the 71 judicial nominees currently pending. There are 143 vacancies on the federal courts.

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