Democrats just confirmed lots of Trump's judges so they could skip town

WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats just gave a huge gift to President Donald Trump: They agreed to expedite votes on 15 of his nominees to lifetime federal court seats because they wanted to go home.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) had lined up votes for all those district court nominees last week. Normally, Senate rules require up to 30 hours of waiting time for each nominee ― something Democrats typically take advantage of to delay action on confirming Trump judges. But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) cut a deal with McConnell on Tuesday to bypass the wait times and let them all get through.

Why? So Democrats could get back to campaigning and focusing on winning re-election in November. The Senate is now out of session until next Tuesday.

Of the 15 nominees, six were confirmed by voice votes on Tuesday. Another one was confirmed on a recorded vote. The remaining eight will get quick votes next week.

It’s a major win for Trump and McConnell, whose No. 1 priority is filling up federal courts with conservative judges ― many of whom are incredibly anti-abortion, anti–LGBTQ rights and anti–voting rights. Trump has gotten 26 circuit court judges confirmed, more than any other president at this point in his term. Another way of putting it: 1 in 7 U.S. circuit court seats is now filled by a judge nominated by Trump.

Add that Trump put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and is poised to get another justice through, Brett Kavanaugh, and you’ve got a president drastically reshaping the nation’s courts for generations.

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Brett Kavanaugh through the years
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Brett Kavanaugh through the years
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 13: Brett Kavanaugh, aide to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, during a meeting in the Office of the Solicitor General on November 13, 1996 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
US Judge Brett Kavanaugh looks on as the US President announces him as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Judge Brett Kavanaugh (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump after being nominated to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) listens to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Judge Brett Kavanaugh speak, [moments after being sworn-in at a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House], in Washington June 1, 2006.
U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
UNITED STATES - JUNE 01: Brett Kavanaugh speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 1, 2006 in Washington, D.C., after being sworn in to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) announces US Judge Brett Kavanaugh (C) as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) watches as Brett Kavanaugh (2nd L) is sworn in as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (R) in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House in Washington June 1, 2006. Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley, holds the bible. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh attends a news conference with Senate GOP leadership in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh smiles next to U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh (L) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh smiles next to U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: (L-R) U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: (L-R) U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 09: Brett Kavanaugh testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 09: Brett M. Kavanaugh, who last appeared before the committee in late April 2004, is sworn in to testify during a second Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing. At right are former bosses Judge Walter K. Stapleton, of the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Wilmington, Del., and Judge Alex Kozinski, of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Pasadena, Calif., who introduced Kavanaugh to the committee. Kavanaugh, President Bush's staff secretary, is the president's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., held the second hearing because Committee Democrats wanted to ask Kavanaugh, formerly an associate White House counsel, more questions about his involvement in the administration's legal policies, particularly on the National Security Agency terrorist surveillance program and the treatment of detainees held by the U.S. military. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 19: Brett Kavanaugh, associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, sits behind Starr during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the possible impeachment of President Bill Clinton on November 19, 1998 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 13: Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, center, talks with Deputy Independent Counsel John Bates, left, and aide Brett Kavanaugh, right, and another colleague in the Office of the Solicitor General during the Whitewater Investigation on November 13, 1996 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh (off frame) and their two daughters stand by US President Donald Trump after he announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (R) speaks after US President Donald Trump announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and their two daughters stand by US President Donald Trump after he announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Some progressives are furious that Democrats just handed more judges to Trump, particularly given recent revelations implicating the president in federal crimes. It would have taken only one Democratic senator to say “no” to letting the nominees through this week, but none did.

“Trading this many lifetime positions away for a couple days back home in the dead of August is a metaphor for how myopic the Democrats’ approach has been at this dark moment in history,” said Brian Fallon, who, awkwardly, was previously Schumer’s chief spokesperson. He is now the executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group.

“An entire branch of government is being lost for generations, and Senate Democrats are willfully blind to it,” Fallon said. “In the coming months and years, these same Democrats will issue outraged statements about the rulings issued by the very judges that they could not be bothered to try to slow down. It is pathetic.”

To be sure, confirming judges in itself is a good thing. Dozens of district courts have had vacancies for so long, they’re operating at emergency levels, and it has left some of the judges on those courts overwhelmed and struggling with burnout.

But delaying action on Trump’s judges is one of the few ways Democrats can do something to push back on his agenda. They could have caused more trouble for McConnell by requiring recorded votes too. Each nominee needs at least 51 votes to get confirmed. Given that the partisan breakdown in the Senate is 50-49 and that McConnell has had attendance issues with his members, it’s easy to see some of these judicial nominees not getting through or at least being beset by delays.

McConnell was a master of delaying action on judicial nominees under President Barack Obama. McConnell leaned on every procedural tool in the book to delay or deny votes to Obama’s court picks ― including, of course, denying a confirmation hearing for his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Progressive groups desperately want Democrats to play a similar game of hardball, but it hasn’t happened.

“Requiring the full amount of process and debate on every judge helps slow things down to prevent the worst of the worst of the Trump judges from speeding through down the line,” said Elizabeth Beavers, an associate policy director at Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group.

Adam Jentleson, a top aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who preceded Schumer as minority leader before retiring in 2017, said the problem “comes down to leadership.”

A senior Senate Democratic aide pushed back on the idea that they caved, noting that most of the judges confirmed Tuesday had Democratic support and that some senators would rather be home on the campaign trail.

“These judges would be confirmed eventually,” said this aide, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “It could happen while members were in D.C., or back home trying to win a majority in the Senate. And yes, mostly noncontroversial judges with lots of [Democratic] support.”

He’s right that most of these district court nominees are uncontroversial. But one of them, Charles Goodwin, was rated “not qualified to be a judge by the American Bar Association.

Six Democrats joined Republicans to confirm him anyway.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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