A GOP-controlled Senate could bring Biden’s judicial nominations to a halt

Washington- President Biden’s first year in office set him apart from his five most recent predecessors with the rapid pace of judicial confirmations by the evenly divided Senate, and his second year brought a historic two-pronged confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, who will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

But the confirmation pipeline through the federal judiciary could grind to a halt if the GOP regains control of the Senate in the November midterm elections and its members find the nominees put forward by Mr. Biden too liberal, like the Republican. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham reported this week.

“If we get the Senate back and we’re in charge of this body and there” [are] We’ll talk to our colleagues on the other side,” said Graham, who headed the Senate Judiciary Committee during Judge Amy Comey Barrett’s confirmation in 2020. “But if we’re in charge, [Jackson] would not have been before this committee. You would have had someone more moderate than this.”

Graham’s comments, combined with those of the Judiciary Committee stuck mood On Monday, in approving Jackson’s nomination, he underlined how the Supreme Court confirmation process has once again fallen victim to the partisan polarization that has gripped the Senate in recent years.

sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told CBS News that Graham’s comments painted a dark picture for future Supreme Court confirmations in periods of divided government.

“That was a very clear shot across the board that while President Biden may still be president for another two and a half years, we will really struggle to confirm a Supreme Court nominee if Republicans take control of the Senate.” said Coons. “That means they’re interested in changing the size of the court.”

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has not pledged to hold a hearing for Biden’s chosen Supreme Court nominee if a new vacancy arises and Republicans control the Senate.

“What I can tell you for sure, if the House and Senate are Republican next year, the president will finally be the moderate when he campaigned,” he told Axios on Thursday. McConnell refused to allow a hearing in 2016 for Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, leaving an eight-month vacancy on the court that was eventually filled by former President Donald Trump when he took office.

Other major Republicans have silenced their strategy.

“Ask me on Nov. 9,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CBS News. “I’m not going to count the chickens before they hatch. That’s why I want to make sure we’re in the majority, and I’m going to have to make those decisions. Right now I don’t have to.”

While the majority of votes to approve Supreme Court nominees decades ago have skewed — Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3 and Judge Antonin Scalia was confirmed 98-0 — the margins by which judges have been confirmed in recent years have become significantly smaller. For example, no Democrat supported Barrett’s confirmation, while Judge Brett Kavanaugh was supported by a single Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. During Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Republicans voiced grievances about the way Kavanaugh’s proceedings were handled by Democrats.

Three GOP senators — Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — diverged from their sides in the vote to confirm Jackson before the Supreme Court, and Collins and Murkowski both regretted how the review process for choosing the Supreme Court has expired. are affected by party politics.

“The court should not be a politicized institution, and if the nomination process leading to confirmation is overly political, I believe it undermines public confidence in our courts,” Collins told reporters on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen that with the last few nominees.”

Rakim Brooks, president of the Alliance for Justice, a progressive legal advocacy group, said he believes the landscape described by Coons, in which a Supreme Court nominee can only be confirmed if the Senate and White House are controlled by the same party, is “where we’re going in the future.”

“It’s proof of where we are,” he told CBS News. “I hope we can get to a place where everyone recognizes that there are good judges, and good judges who deserve to be on the Supreme Court, but it’s far from it.”

Brooks predicted that the partisanship that has tainted Supreme Court confirmations will also spill over to lower court nominations submitted by Mr. Biden, if Republicans take over the Senate.

Since he took office in January 2021, the Democrat-controlled Senate has confirmed 58 of Biden’s nominees to the U.S. courts and appeals courts, and a further 24 of his judicial choices are awaiting Senate approval to fill current or future vacancies. the federal bank – a fraction of the 71 seats now open and 34 vacancies that will arise in the coming weeks and months.

The Judicial Conference, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has already declared 28 judicial emergencies, determined by how long vacancies have existed, in 14 federal courts.

“We are dealing with a judicial crisis,” Brooks said. “Essentially we are talking about the administration of justice in the country and whether or not people are being heard fairly for their grievances. This cheap bias is destructive to the justice that the American people expect and deserve from what is the most vaunted justice system in the world. “

Biden finished his first year in office with the most confirmed judges since President Ronald Reagan, and the Judiciary Committee expects the same pace in reviewing the president’s judicial nominees once the Senate returns from a two-week recess in late April, with hearings every other week and between five and six nominees at each proceeding.

If consideration of Mr. Biden’s judicial nominations were to stop or slow down as Republicans take control of the Senate, Brooks said the effects would “almost certainly” be felt acutely at the district court level.

“The courts are where justice begins in this country,” he said. “This bias and the treatment of the process for political gain, somehow, is leading us to a place where we are not doing what we need to do to have a fair justice system.”

Judicial appointments will thus become a matter of by-elections in November.

“The American public should be concerned,” Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told CBS News. “We need to have a functioning justice system in this country with qualified judges on the bench.”

Republicans have been successful in previous elections by enthusing voters around the courts. The chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, Senator Rick Scott, told CBS News that the courts are “very important” to GOP voters.

“Trump was chosen for example because he released his list of nominees to the Supreme Court in 2016,” he said.

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