May 15, 2018
If all Donald Trump did with these four years was balance the courts, his presidency would still be a success. Lucky for us, he's got his sights set on a lot more than that -- and a pile of accomplishments to prove it. But in an age when more decisions are being snatched out of his hands and put in the courts', this president understands there's only one way to protect that progress: confirming men and women to the bench who respect and uphold the law.
Thanks to Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), he's racked up an impressive list. With laser precision, he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are guaranteeing that no matter what happens in November or 2020, the people who have the last word on some of America's most important issues will be strict constructionists the country can trust. Moving faster than almost any Senate in history, the duo of Grassley and McConnell have blown through nominations with a speed that even Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) says she hasn't seen before in 25 years. "They are just rolling them out. This is a real effort to stack the appellate court, there is no question about that," she said.
Just yesterday, the Senate confirmed another two judges to the circuit courts -- the final stop before the U.S. Supreme Court -- and usually, the final word. Believe it or not, only two percent of cases ever make it past the appellate level to SCOTUS, meaning these men and women are the next best thing to Neil Gorsuch. While SCOTUS grabs all the headlines, these judges are just as responsible (if not more so) for making key decisions on everything from immigration and religious liberty cases to Second Amendment conflicts and life. And in just a year and a half, President Trump has sent 19 more judges to those circuits -- a major coup for an appellate system with 179 seats.
Thanks to the quick action of Grassley and McConnell, Michael Scudder will be heading to his new home on the Seventh Circuit with fellow rookie Amy St. Eve. What's notable about these two is not only that they were Trump's 36th and 37th judicial confirmations, but that they were both confirmed unanimously -- proving what a farce the Democrats' objections have turned out to be. In most cases, Senate liberals don't actually object to these nominees, they're just desperate to gum up the process. Like us, they know that judges who bound by the Constitution spell disaster for an agenda like theirs that depends on the courts.
No wonder McConnell told Hugh Hewitt, "This is my top priority in the Senate. By appointing and confirming these strict constructionists to the courts who are in their late 40s or early 50s ... I believe we're making a generational change in the country." Unfortunately for the GOP, a lot of this record-setting progress has been flying under the media's radar. While Senate Republicans plow through two more circuit court judges today -- Joel Carson and John Nalbandian -- some conservatives think even more could be done. In a letter to GOP leaders, 16 senators urge McConnell to think about how many more nominees they could confirm if he canceled the August recess.
"There's about 30 district court people on the agenda right now," Grassley said, "and I have pleaded with McConnell to work nights, to work Saturdays and weekends, and put the pressure on the Democrats." Right now, the Democrats are insisting on 30 hours of debate for every nominee, just to eat up the clock. Maybe if McConnell threatened to work through their vacation, they'd have a sudden change of heart.
Either way, the Republicans' methodical approach to nominees is paying off. And someday, very soon, Americans will find out for themselves just how significant the GOP's investment in the courts has been. Until then, we agree with Grassley: keep it up!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.