By Kevin Freking, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday celebrated his administration’s success in getting more than 150 federal judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate as he sought to demonstrate progress in meeting the concerns of many conservatives.
Trump’s victory lap came as the Senate neared confirming the 44th appeals court judge of his presidency. It’s a benchmark that means he’ll have filled one-quarter of such judgeships in under three years in office. By comparison, President Barack Obama nominated 55 circuit judges who were confirmed over eight years.
Trump reveled in the numbers as he sought to show progress on the conservative agenda while Congress struggles to pass any legislation of substance and an impeachment inquiry threatens to tarnish his legacy going into the 2020 elections.
He noted that the average age of his circuit court nominees is less than 50, ensuring he’ll have his fingerprints on many of the important legal decisions facing the country for decades to come.
“They’re young, smart. That’s 10 years younger than President Obama’s nominees,” Trump said.
He also celebrated the confirmation of two Supreme Court judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as 112 district court judges.
The Republican victories on judges came after Congress nearly shut down the confirmation process during Obama’s final two years in office, leaving federal courts with more than 100 vacancies when Trump took office. Democrats complained that Republicans have disregard Senate norms and traditions to rig the judicial system for partisan gain. They noted that some nominees have refused to answer senators’ questions, while Republicans have pushed others through without the consent of their home state senators.
“The result is a judiciary packed with young judges whose views are far outside the mainstream,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Instead of serving as neutral arbiters, these judges will push a conservative agenda that will have lasting effects for generations.”
Several Republican senators joined Trump in the White House East Room to promote his legacy on judges, most notably Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, the current chairman.
McConnell said Trump’s judicial nominees are bright, young men and women “who believe in the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is to follow the law.”
“And so, Mr. President, this is one of the many ways you’re helping to make America great again,” McConnell said.
Grassley credited Trump for his decision to put out a list of possible Supreme Court nominees when he ran for president.
“You kept your word. And 20 percent of the people voted for you based on the proposition of the kind of people you were going to put on the Supreme Court,” Grassley said.
Liberal groups questioned whether Trump’s focus on the judiciary will provide a winning formula again in 2020.
“It is stunning that after being repudiated in yesterday’s elections, the president believes he can win back support by reminding the American people of the litany of right-wing ideologues that he has awarded with lifetime positions as federal judges — many of whom are grossly unqualified,” said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron.