WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party’s astonishing grip on control of the Senate will allow President Joe Biden and his allies in the chamber to do something that has been quietly successful: train federal judges without the threat of Republican filibuster.
The Senate majority, anchored by a Democratic victory in Nevada, gives Biden a clear lead on how to pursue one of his most important activities: reshaping the federal courts with a wide array of liberal judges appointed for life, including a number record of women, minorities, former civil rights advocates and lawyers.
The Senate confirmed 84 Biden-appointed justices, including Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman on the Supreme Court and 25 appeals court justices, confirming justices at a faster rate than President Donald Trump before. the 2022 elections.
“Senate Democrats are committed to restoring balance to the federal justice system with professionally and personally diverse judges,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told NBC News on Saturday night. “With two more years of a Democratic majority in the Senate, we will build on our historic pace of judicial confirmations and ensure the federal bench better reflects America’s diversity.”
Trump, in tandem with Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, confirmed 234 justices in his four years — including three Supreme Court justices and dozens of young conservatives poised to rule cases for generations. Senate Republican leaders told NBC News ahead of the election that if they win a majority, they would use their power on the floor to force Biden to send in more centrist justices than GOP senators could support.
“This is a major dodged bullet because it means Biden will have the opportunity to build on what will go down for him as an iconic piece of legacy, which is a real metamorphosis in the makeup of the courts. if he gets a full four years of running corner,” said Brian Fallon, who leads the liberal court-focused group Demand Justice. “He won’t just be competitive with Trump over a four-year span with the total number of confirmed nominees, he will also have left a lasting mark.”
Like other liberals, Fallon worried that Republicans would have slowed judicial confirmations if they took control of the Senate. He said Democrats keeping control means that if a Supreme Court vacancy were to open up, Biden’s nominee would be guaranteed a vote. But he said he disagreed with some liberals who argue that Justices Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan should retire so Democrats can hold onto their seats longer by confirming junior justices.
Fallon argued that a “silver lining” for a possible Republican-controlled House is that stopping Biden’s legislative agenda means “judicial appointees are the only game in town in terms of the agenda in the Senate,” from least if the second half of Biden’s tenure somehow resembles Trump’s final two years.
NBC News predicted on Saturday that Democrats would win the Nevada Senate race and win at least 50 seats, enough to keep control with Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote – and could get a 51st if they win the second round. of the Georgia Senate on December 21. 6. NBC News has yet to predict which party will control the House, with a close battle and votes still counting in key races.
That leaves conservatives little hope of thwarting Biden-picked judges, after failed attempts in recent years to sway centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, to reject some of them.
“Biden promised unity and moderation but still appointed radical justices to appease the black money liberal groups that helped elect him. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats simply endorsed their picks and I expect that trend to continue,” said Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a well-funded advocacy group that fights for a more justice system. right and also does not disclose its donors.
“JCN will continue to use any means necessary to highlight hardline Biden justices who care more about delivering liberal policy results from the bench than following the law,” she said.
While the current 50-member Democratic caucus has been unified behind Biden’s judicial nominees, a 51st seat for the party could further embolden it. Currently, the 50-50 split means the Judiciary Committee is evenly split, and Republicans can force Democrats to jump an extra hoop and consume hours of Senate time to get a vote on a judge. If the Democrats keep their Georgia seat, they could deny the GOP that option.
There are currently 76 vacancies in the District Courts and 9 in the Courts of Appeal. This number is sure to increase as more judges retire and open their seats over the next two years.
Some on the left have pushed Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to end a courtesy known as the “blue slip” that allows senators to block scrutiny by justices of the courts of district in their home state. In practice, that means Democrats currently need Republican approval to confirm judges in red states. (GOP leaders eliminated the rule for circuit judges but kept it for district courts.)
Asked by NBC News in September if he would keep the tradition alive, Durbin said it had worked for the Senate and he would “stick to it” if he remained as chairman of the judiciary for two more years.
The Democrats’ grip on the Senate eases pressure on Schumer to push through the justices in the lame duck session, which party leaders planned to do in case the Republicans took control, wary of whether they would allow votes on those candidates.
For now, both parties are expected to spend big in Georgia’s runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, which could make it a little easier for Democrats to maneuver Biden’s judicial nominations.
“Georgia is still important to the court confirmation project because it’s been a real bitch having to deal with all these discharge requests on the floor,” Fallon said. “The process will be even more streamlined if we can add Georgia in the second round.”
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