Powerful Legacy: One in Four US Circuit Court Judges Are Now Trump Appointees

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Posted: Dec 23, 2019 12:00 PM
Powerful Legacy: One in Four US Circuit Court Judges Are Now Trump Appointees

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Long after all the shouting over impeachment dies down -- and, indeed, long after he leaves office -- our politics will be shaped for a generation by President Trump's judicial appointments. His ongoing and powerful alliance with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose motto is 'leave no vacancy behind,' continues to pay consequential dividends for the many Republican voters who cited the federal courts as a top factor in their 2016 vote. After President Obama's eight-year tenure tilted the judiciary to the left, Trump and Senate Republicans have undertaken an aggressive and concerted effort to remake the third branch by stocking it with young, right-leaning judges. That relentless focus has paid off, in spades:


"Ensuring a conservative tilt for decades." It must be said that there's no chance this escalating achievement would have been possible without Harry Reid's short-sighted power grab in 2013. McConnell presciently warned Reid that his party would come to rue that decision, but that admonition fell on deaf ears. The result, as many lefties are acknowledging, has been a Trump-caused disaster for their ideological project:


"Everyone" did not say this. Conservatives mostly made this argument, as well as a handful of more circumspect and old school Democrats. Nearly every single Democratic Senator went along with Reid's "nuclear" gambit, which set the table for Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The media, seeing a win for Democrats, largely cheered the move and downplayed its risks at the time. And now, not only has SCOTUS shifted rightward, and not only have various circuit courts 'flipped,' Trump is also chipping away at the most notoriously left-wing panels in the country:

A bastion of liberalism in the federal judiciary is slowly turning rightward, threatening Democratic court challenges on everything from abortion to who gets a green card. The Senate confirmation of Lawrence VanDyke and Patrick Bumatay to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month brought to nine the number of appointments President Donald Trump has made to the 29-member bench that serves as the last stop for nearly all legal complaints lodged in nine Western states. Democratic-appointed judges now hold a three-seat majority, compared with 11 at the start of Trump's presidency.

Imagine what could be accomplished in a second term. This is, in my opinion, the most potent argument in favor of Trump's re-election -- as well as a clarion call for conservatives to prioritize holding the US Senate, in spite of a challenging map. The Associated Press sees what's happening, noting that this progress has flown under the radar:

Amid intense focus on impeachment and year-end deals on spending and trade, the Senate hurtled this week toward a less-heralded accomplishment: confirming another batch of conservative judges. Senators confirmed 13 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, bringing to 102 the number of federal judges approved this year — more than twice the annual average over the past three decades. The steady transformation of the courts reflects the single-minded focus of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to “leave no vacancy behind” as he and Trump seek to tilt the judicial branch to the right....“While all eyes were understandably on impeachment, Mitch McConnell’s conveyor belt churned out a shocking number of judges this week in what remains the most underrated story of the Trump era,″ said Christopher Kang, chief counsel at Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group. “Trump’s hijacking of our judiciary will be his most enduring legacy, and it will continue to threaten everything progressives care about long after he leaves office,” Kang said.

There's no "hijacking" going on. Republicans are simply playing hardball, using the rules Democrats foolishly and myopically established. Elections and actions have consequences. Incidentally, this "conveyor belt" is precisely why the argument that Nancy Pelosi has "leverage" on withholding impeachment articles from the Senate until Republicans agree to Democrats' preferred terms for trial rules is laughable. McConnell is more than happy to keep the Senate schedule right on track, as House Democrats play fruitless and unserious games. I'll leave you with Marco Rubio touting the latest batch of confirmations: