Despite all that is going on, President Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer have been moving quickly to get judicial nominees seated. The number of judges getting confirmed and the pace of filling vacancies are quite impressive, and Biden is also making history by reshaping the courts. In an ironic twist, the credit for much of this recent Democratic success goes to Sen. Mitch McConnell.
On Wednesday, the White House announced Biden’s ninth round of judicial nominees (10 in all), which brings the number of announced federal judicial nominees to 62 in the short time since Biden’s inauguration early this year. The day before, Schumer spoke on the Senate floor about “a number that everyone watching the work of the Senate should take note of: 28.” Having just confirmed Beth Robinson and Toby Heytens on Monday, the Senate’s 28 confirmed judges means “more judges put in the first nine months of the president’s first term than has happened in a very long time,” he pointed out.
Although Biden is acting quickly to fill vacancies, he’s also making sure that not only are his nominees “extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution,” but that they fulfill his promise to “reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country,” according to the White House. For example, the Senate’s confirmation of Robinson to the Second Circuit on Monday not only flips that court back to a Democratic-appointee lean, but it means an openly LGBTQ woman is serving as a federal appellate judge for the first time.
Democrats have been so successful with filling seats this year thanks in large part to McConnell’s greedy, shortsighted actions. In 2017, McConnell ended the tradition of allowing senators to send “blue slips” to object to a nominee in their state. Schumer, who took the reins from McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin have indicated they will follow McConnell’s practice. McConnell also changed the Senate rules to limit debate on circuit and district court judges, reducing post-cloture debate time from 30 hours to a mere two hours.
With Biden as President and the Democrats in control of the Senate, we can expect the fast past of seating qualified, diverse judicial picks to continue at least into next year. This development is not only a reminder that elections matter, but it’s one of many reasons why next year’s midterms are so critical. As Michelle Obama once said, “You’ve got to vote, vote, vote, vote. That’s it; that’s the way we move forward. That’s how we make progress for ourselves and for our country.”