Biden Takes Historic Step To Undo Trump Judicial Legacy

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As reported this weekend by journalist Seung Min Kim, the Senate has now “confirmed Biden’s 40th judge — the most since Reagan, who also got 40 judges confirmed in his first year” — which means, of course, that Biden’s total number of judicial nominees that have been confirmed by the Senate during his first year in office also surpasses the total number of judge picks that Donald Trump saw confirmed during his first year in office. At the time, Trump’s own political party controlled the Senate, but that factor wasn’t enough for the then-president to make a broader impact on the nation’s judiciary at that stage of his tenure.

As explained by Seung Min Kim, Democrats — who are, of course, now in control of the Senate — have “taken advantage of GOP’s fast-track methods – multiple [nominees] at hearings, shortened floor time for district [nominees], [and] planning to disregard blue slip.” “Blue slip” refers to the so-called blue slip tradition, which involves prioritizing the opinions of Senators from judicial nominees’ home states in formulating whether or not a given nomination for the judiciary would move forward. The same reporter has also explained how, in 2019, Senate Republicans substantially lowered the amount of time allocated for floor debates over nominees for positions on district courts. Their change in the rules brought the total time for debating these nominations from 30 hours down to just two, which obviously helps with expediency.

There’s still a significant distance to go for Biden in fully catching up to the impact that Trump left on the courts, but he and his Democratic allies in the Senate have clearly made a running start. Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed by the Republican majority in the Senate late last year as Trump’s third overall selection for the U.S. Supreme Court, was set to be the 220th Trump judicial nominee to be confirmed and put in place, and Republicans had more time in power following that point.

These confirmations — or the lack thereof — stand to have long-lasting impacts on the direction of policy in the United States. Although none of Biden’s judicial nominees include picks for the Supreme Court, and there are currently no openings there, it’s set to — at some point in the near future — deliver an opinion on whether a Mississippi law banning almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy can stay in effect. The eventual decision could significantly impact the direction of abortion rights in the United States.