Skip to comments.Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks
Posted on 11/18/2018 4:06:35 PM PST by yesthatjallen
The Senate is bracing for an end-of-the-year brawl over President Trump's judicial nominations.
Republicans view filling the lifetime court seats as their top priority and are expected to confirm as many nominees as possible before the Senate adjourns for the year, infuriating Democrats and their allies who are powerless to stop Trumps picks.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already teeing up votes for two nominations Jonathan Kobes to be an 8th Circuit Court judge and Thomas Farr to be a district court judge for when senators return from their Thanksgiving recess.
And Republicans expect McConnell to barrel through more nominations before Dec. 14, the chambers target date to wrap up their work for the year.
Thats Sen. McConnells No. 1 priority is to continue to move judges, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Republican.
There are 35 judicial nominees available for votes on the Senate calendar, leaving more nominations than days left in the Senates work schedule to confirm the picks.
McConnell has pledged that he will move each of Trumps nominees who are out of committee by the end of the year. If he's going to make good on that plan, he'll either need a final nominations package or keep the Senate in session through the holidays.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said McConnell has pledged he wont leave any court nominees behind, adding that it was up to Democrats to determine when they wanted to leave town.
Its really up to them whether they want to confirm those on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, or whether they want to confirm them earlier in December by yielding back the time, Cotton told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Republicans have been confirming Trumps judicial nominees at a rapid clip, setting a record for the number of appeals judges confirmed during the first two years of an administration.
McConnell recently touted the record number of circuit judges at the Federalist Societys Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner, adding that there will be more before the end of this current Congress.
Though Republicans have the first unified GOP government in a decade, McConnell says he views judicial nominations as the partys best chance of having a long-term impact on the direction of the country.
Underscoring the importance on the nominations, the issue came up during a recent White House meeting between Trump, McConnell, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to discuss the end-of-the-year agenda.
McConnell discussed that that was one of his priorities and how important it was, Shelby said after the meeting.
The GOPs hardball tactics have infuriated Democrats and their allies, who cannot stop Trumps picks without help from Republicans.
People for the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker called Kobes and Farr the latest examples of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and McConnell's reckless and irresponsible approach to rubber stamping Trumps dangerous judicial nominations, adding that the two senators have debased the Senate in pursuit of their ultra-partisan agenda.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) seized on McConnells decision to tee up Farrs nomination, saying he was making a last-ditch effort and warning that Farr, if confirmed, will keep working to disenfranchise African Americans and communities of color.
Tensions have been running high for months over judicial nominations, with Republicans accusing Democrats of obstruction and Democrats arguing McConnell and Grassley are destroying Senate norms in order to fill the courts with conservative judges.
The frustrations boiled over during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaughs confirmation fight, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) acknowledging that relations on the Judiciary Committee are still a little tense.
But Democrats are powerless to stop Trumps nominees on their own after they went nuclear in 2013 and lowered the 60-vote filibuster for most nominations to a simple majority. Republicans followed suit in 2017 and nixed the 60-vote hurdle for Supreme Court picks.
In a further blow to Democrats, Grassley is moving circuit court nominees over the objection of home-state senators. The Senate has confirmed nominees even though one home-state senator didnt return their blue slip, a sheet of paper that indicates if they support the nomination.
But if Republicans want to max out the number of judicial nominees they could confirm theyll need to defuse a fight with a member of their own party: Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.).
Flake, who is retiring in January, is refusing to support judicial nominees until he gets a vote on legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller.
The hope here is that we bring this to a vote and that we can approve some more judges, Flake said. Theres a circuit court judge that I helped get nominated that we would like to see on the 9th Circuit. Shes noncontroversial. There are other noncontroversial judges that we ought to be moving through, but the priority here has to be to protect the special counsel.
No Republicans have said that they will help Flake block nominations on the Senate floor, but the party holds an 11-10 majority on Judiciary Committee meaning controversial nominations, which are regularly passed along party lines, will be blocked at committee level until Republicans can appease Flake or win over a Democrat.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the panel, praised Flakes tactics, saying he has struck at the heart of the Republican agenda.
They are more determined to approve judges than anything else that theyre working on, Durbin said.
Republicans discussed how to break Flakes impasse during their final closed-door caucus lunch before the Thanksgiving recess, but didnt reach a decision. A GOP senator suggested giving him a symbolic, nonbinding sense of the Senate vote, but Flake rejected that offer.
Its not the first time Flake has issued an ultimatum over judicial nominations. He briefly opposed circuit court picks over Trumps tariff policy but dropped his opposition when he got a procedural vote related to trade policy.
With Flake on his way out, McConnell could simply wait until next year. If a nominee isnt confirmed by the end of the year, the White House needs to renominate that person a timely, but not fatal, process.
Republicans will have anywhere from a 52- to 53-seat majority next year. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) clinched a victory over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on Sunday. In Mississippi, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D) are battling in a runoff scheduled for Nov. 27.
McConnell noted during the Federalist Society event that the Senate was in the personnel business and that Republicans would have an enhanced majority to confirm judges next year.
The American people have smiled on the Senate were going to keep doing it for two more years, he said.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whos expected to take over as Judiciary Committee chairman next year, pledged that he would work to confirm conservative judges if colleagues pick him to lead the panel.
If I am fortunate enough to be selected by my colleagues to serve as chairman, I will push for the appointment and Senate confirmation of highly qualified conservative judges to the federal bench, Graham said.
The push to re-take control of our courts.
Kick Flake off of the committee.
It will continue next year with enlarged GOP control of the Senate.
McTurtle can push judicial nominations through in 2019. Another SCOTUS vacancy could open up as well.
Whats not to like?
Sweet, sweet music to my ears!
"Republicans expect McConnell to barrel through more nominations before Dec. 14, the chambers target date to wrap up their work for the year."
Why go home on Dec. 14? They don't need to go home to campaign. Keep them there until Jan. 2 and get more judges confirmed! Lazy louts!
Okay Republicans - don’t choke.
It’s not exactly a showdown if one side is powerless.
Flake was NEVER “masquerading as a “conservative.” He was, however, masquerading as a Republican.
About as much of a showdown as if I have a shotgun and a couple of friends with AR-15s and you’ve got a rubber band pistol.
Republicans have the Senate. Ned of subject.
Kick Flake off the committee and get every R. in both houses of Congress to pledge never to allow Flake any meeting or lobbying effort for the rest of his sorry life. When Flake discovers he can’t cash in as he expected then at least something will be achieved....
I know, I know, the chances that Rs could organize around any such “punishment” to Flake are slim to none.
With Flakey Flucking Jeff Fake determined to be a petulant little brat spoiler, it isn’t going to be easy.
So good luck with that.
ummm, yeah, he tries... he even wrote a book “The Conscience of a Conservative” ..... doesn’t mean he is credible, but he pretends.
He's the Alt-Flake!
And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whos expected to take over as Judiciary Committee chairman next year, pledged that he would work to confirm conservative judges if colleagues pick him to lead the panel. If I am fortunate enough to be selected by my colleagues to serve as chairman, I will push for the appointment and Senate confirmation of highly qualified conservative judges to the federal bench, Graham said.
Graham is singing the right song. If he stays on the lyrics sheet, this could be a damned good two years.
Whatever he pretended to be was exposed for all to see whenever he spoke at the Kavanaugh hearings. Everything he said was a slam at President Trump.
There are no "non-controversial nominations" anymore (unless, of course, they happen to lean liberal), thus exposing the complete idiocy of the soon-to-be ex-Senator Flaky Flake...
It’s not exactly a showdown if one side is powerless.
Flake is going to be replaced by Sinema. Same difference.
Oops. Didn’t mean to post that twice.
If Flake wants her then she should never get a hearing.
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