With the nation's eyes largely elsewhere in a sea of distraction on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee quietly advanced 44 of President Donald Trump's federal judicial nominees in what civil rights defenders denounced as a "monster markup" that threatens to leave the president's dangerous ideological footprint on the nation's courts for generations to come.
"They want to see Roe v. Wade overturned or narrowed into oblivion, LGBT people permanently consigned to the margins of American life, and constitutional and civil right encroached on by the religious preference of a vocal few."
—Sen. Mazie Hirono
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the move "disturbingly exemplifies the joint Senate Republican-Trump administration effort to distort our federal judiciary and roll back our civil and human rights."
Gupta also accused Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee's chairman, of defying "the committee rules and basic fairness in jamming through more than 40 nominees for lifetime appointments, many of whom have a demonstrated hostility to our rights."
That's the number of Trump's judicial nominees who advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. There's a lot going on, but we can't forget about our courts – and the people being chosen to serve on them for life. Our rights are at stake: https://t.co/t2rVzWQtdr
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) February 8, 2019
Warning that the flurry of judges was a "clear look into the future," Esquire's Charles Pierce explained that the federal judiciary Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate are creating "will play an outsized role in judging any policies put in place by any Democratic president to repair the vandalism and neglect brought onto the institutions of government by this administration*. In this case, Donald Trump is forever."
During the committee hearing on Thursday, Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) declared that "too many of these nominees have spent their careers opposing the rights of women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and Americans who need affordable healthcare." Highlighting a few nominees' records, she read some of their public comments and rulings to demonstrate their strongly held far-right views.
The senator also drew attention to the right-wing groups tied to many of the current nominees, adding: "Who gets on the federal court for life is high stakes. Just ask the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation who have spent decades and lots of money placing people who are on their ideological page on our federal courts."
"Month after month, we have seen a parade of these so-called conservative activists nominated to the federal courts," she said. "They have been groomed by conservative political ideologues. They want to see Roe v. Wade overturned or narrowed into oblivion, LGBT people permanently consigned to the margins of American life, and constitutional and civil right encroached on by the religious preference of a vocal few."
Poverty is not just a mindset. Birth control does not cause cancer. Transgender children are not delusions. These nominees in the #MonsterMarkup are not the kind of judges that will protect the rights of all Americans and promote the independence and integrity of our courts. pic.twitter.com/LxmzB5in2v
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) February 7, 2019
Reporting for HuffPost, Jennifer Bendery said her story would be "pages long if we spelled out the records of all of the controversial nominees who just advanced," but offered "a sampling of the people drawing some of the fiercest criticism from civil and women's rights groups."
The advancement of the 44 nominees, who are expected to be confirmed in floor votes by the Republican-controlled Senate, follows the release of a study that, as Common Dreams reported last month, outlined Trump's ongoing effort to stack the federal courts with far-right judges.
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"This analysis reveals how dangerously far to the right Trump has moved the federal courts in almost no time at all," said Brian Fallon, executive director of the advocacy group Demand Justice, which commissioned the report from Data for Progress. "These are not normal nominees, and Democrats can't continue to treat this situation as business as usual."
The Senate Judiciary Committee displays contempt for our courts and for our democratic institutions by rubber-stamping more than 40 of Trump's judicial nominees. These noms are radical, and overwhelmingly white and male.
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) February 7, 2019
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), another judiciary committee member as well as a 2020 presidential hopeful, called out the Trump administration during the hearing for its "commitment to reshaping our courts for generations to come with nominees that are extreme and outside the mainstream."
"What we are seeing is this administration's commitment to reshaping our courts for generations to come with nominees that are extreme and outside the mainstream."
—Sen. Kamala Harris
"In just the first two years of this administration, the Senate has already confirmed 85 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices," Harris said.
While pointing out that if the 44 under consideration are confirmed, "they will represent one out of 20 lifetime-appointed federal judges in the United States," she emphasized that "it's not the number of judges that are being confirmed that concerns me as much as the number of extreme judges who are being confirmed."
"Today what we are seeing is this administration's commitment to reshaping our courts for generations to come with nominees that are extreme and outside the mainstream." @SenKamalaHarris #MonsterMarkup pic.twitter.com/1BBr2zuFlz
— Alliance for Justice (@AFJustice) February 7, 2019
And, as Gupta noted in a statement Thursday, "As if court packing was not enough, this rushed markup also included Attorney General nominee William Barr."
"The nomination of Attorney General, our nation's top law enforcement officer that oversees the enforcement of crucial federal civil rights, deserves careful and comprehensive consideration," Gupta charged. "This is especially true given the position's importance, the divisive and harmful policies of the Sessions Department of Justice, and Barr's own anti-civil rights record."