President Trump is working to fulfill his campaign promise to seat judges who respect both the rule of law and the Constitution. Trump fulfilled this pledge when he nominated Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has a strong record of interpreting the law as it is written, not as he wishes it were written.
The president should also be commended for nominating similarly fair-minded and qualified judges for lower courts. Thanks to the hard work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, 38 of these well-qualified nominees have been confirmed.
But liberal senators, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., continue to obstruct the president’s nominees by abusing Senate rules and procedures. As a result, total judicial vacancies are ballooning. When Trump took office, there were 108 judicial vacancies. Now, there are 176 current and known future judicial vacancies.
Why have vacancies nearly doubled? Because members of the Democratic minority are hell-bent on preventing Trump from putting judges on the court who will respect the Constitution. They’d much rather have judges willing to legislate liberal causes from the bench.
Under Schumer’s direction, Democrats have embarked on an obstruction campaign to create gridlock in the Senate, impeding or even halting the confirmation of Trump’s nominees. Democrats are weaponizing Senate procedure in an attempt to run out the clock on the Trump administration.
One tool they’ve latched onto is the cloture process. Rather than allowing the Senate to directly proceed to a vote on a nominee as used to be the norm, Democrats are using this to force up to 30 hours of debate on a nominee, even when that “debate” consists of an empty Senate chamber or senators talking about unrelated topics. In many cases, dozens of hours of the Senate’s time have been wasted “debating” nominees who have unanimous support, simply letting the clock run down without mentioning the nominee once.
By insisting on going through the cloture process for nearly every nominee, Democrats have slowed confirmations to a glacial pace. Their plan is to slow the confirmation of qualified Republican nominees so that they can preserve liberal dominance of the courts.
They are less interested in seating fair-minded judges than they are in confirming what Gorsuch called “politicians in robes” — liberal politicians, of course. They fear Trump’s nominees because they know that they would be impartial judges who would protect constitutional rights, including free speech, religious liberty, and the right to bear arms.
For the sake of our courts, as well as the credibility of the Senate, this blatant obstruction of qualified nominees must be stopped. Fortunately, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has offered a solution: The Lankford Proposal would amend the body’s rules to shorten the length of post-cloture debate. The proposal would still grant 30 hours of debate post-cloture for Cabinet-level positions, Supreme Court justices, and Court of Appeals judges, but would cap post-cloture debate for all other nominees at eight hours, and district court nominees, who would be capped at just two hours. These same limitations were adopted as a temporary measure in 2013 by a majority of senators in both parties. The Senate should immediately adopt this proposal to stop those who seek to waste the American people’s valuable time and put qualified judges on the bench.
Confirming the president’s extraordinary judicial nominees is a top priority for me and my organization, the Judicial Crisis Network, and we are committed to doing whatever necessary to end this Democratic obstruction. That’s why we’ve launched a campaign in support of Lankford’s gridlock reform. It’s time to tell the Senate Democrats who are obstructing Trump’s picks that they must stop playing games and start voting for qualified judicial nominees. Our courts — and our country — deserve better.
Editor's Note: This column first appeared in The Washington Examiner.
Carrie Severino is the chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network. She is also a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a graduate of Harvard Law School.