After Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, confirmations of President Obama’s appointments to various federal courts slowed to a crawl, culminating, of course, in Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland’s lack of any hearing whatsoever.
It was a gamble that has since paid off big time for Republicans, because not only will incoming President Donald Trump be able to pick Justice Scalia’s replacement, he will also be filling approximately 103 federal court vacancies, almost double the 54 vacancies President Obama faced upon entering office in 2009.
The Washington Post laments, “State gun control laws, abortion restrictions, voter laws, anti-discrimination measures and immigrant issues are all matters that are increasingly heard by federal judges and will be influenced by the new composition of the courts. Trump has vowed to choose ideologues in the mold of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon — a prospect that has activists on the right giddy.”
Indeed! Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, says of Trump’s tremendous opportunity, “I’m optimistic he’ll come at this right out of the gate. Every president can expect to make a huge impact. [Trump] is unique in having campaigned really hard on this issue — the significance of the courts, and of the Supreme Court in particular.”
In fact, the issue of which party gets to appoint Scalia’s replacement was a rallying cry for Republicans and a deciding factor for many who may have otherwise been doubtful about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Once the primaries were over and it was going to be either Trump or Hillary Clinton, the thought of Clinton making these appointments was too much for many to stomach.
Naturally, Democrats aren’t happy with Republican stalling tactics. White House spokesman Ed Schultz told the Post that fully 25 Obama nominees who were approved with bipartisan support out of committee were still pending on the Senate floor and never received a vote. “Republican tactics have been shameful and will forever leave a stain on the United States Senate,” said Schultz. “Republican congressional dysfunction has now metastasized to the third branch of government, and that is not a legacy to be proud of.”
And now, thanks to Harry Reid and his Senate procedural changes that allow a majority vote on many court appointments, Republicans will be able to fill these vacancies with lightening speed.
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