Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insists he’ll move to confirm all President Trump’s judicial nominees by the end of the year to eliminate a backlog caused by Democratic delay tactics.
“We are not going to leave any judges behind at the end of the year, when we get through this Congress,” McConnell told the Washington Examiner Thursday.
Senate Democrats and GOP lawmakers struck a bipartisan deal to confirm a slate of 15 judges on Thursday, which McConnell sees as a down payment for work later this year.
Thursday's action left 34 nominees still waiting to be confirmed after getting through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and McConnell's pledge means he might force the Senate to stay in session to get them all done before Christmas. But his actions this week show he is willing to play rough with the other side.
McConnell had been keeping the Senate in session over the last few weeks to confirm more judges, which forced Democrats to decide whether to agree to confirm them quickly, or stick around and watch the Senate take several weeks to finish up.
Democrats ultimately agreed to the 15-judge deal in order to leave D.C. to return to the campaign trail. But quickly confirming judicial nominees has angered the Democratic base, which is still fuming over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last week.
[More: Senate GOP split over the prospect of a 2020 Supreme Court vacancy]
“Every single senator should take their responsibility to consider lifetime appointments to our courts more seriously,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Thursday. “Turning the Senate into a rubber stamp for Trump's takeover of our courts is appalling. Our courts matter far too much to rush this process.”
Democrats have been slow-walking many Trump nominees by requiring extended debate time.
“There are some that are clearly controversial,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday.
But a half-dozen Senate Democrats are in tough re-election battles and the party is in jeopardy of losing seats in the closely divided Senate.
McConnell told the Washington Examiner he has worked around the stall tactics by prioritizing the confirmation of judicial nominees to the powerful courts of appeals, or circuit courts.
The Senate has approved 26 so far and confirmed an additional three circuit court judges Thursday. The Senate also confirmed 12 district judges on Thursday.
"They are anxious to go and sometimes that gives me the only leverage I have,” McConnell said of the Democrats.
The desire to conclude the rare August session, McConnell said, helped him secure a deal to confirm 21 district court judges.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced an additional eight judicial nominees to the growing list awaiting a floor vote.
Panel Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wanted the Senate to stay in town and finish the entire list.
“Total judges on the floor now 49,” Grassley tweeted Thursday. “Lots of work to do. Senate should stay in session till all 49 judges are confirmed. Work comes before campaigning.”