Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's latest maneuver to push federal judges onto the bench will facilitate their quick approval in the Senate, a move that has his critics in the chamber concerned for the institution and the courts.
The latest in McConnell's scheme to pack the courts come hell or high water would limit debate on district court appointees from 30 hours to two.
NUCLEAR OPTION TRIGGERED: Senate votes 51-48 to change the rules and cut debate time for certain nominations from 30 hours to 2 hours.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 3, 2019
The move was led by Mitch McConnell; all Republicans except Susan Collins and Mike Lee voted to nuke the rules. Kamala Harris was absent.
Most commentary on the rule change focused on the way McConnell and the GOP will use it to force President Donald Trump's extreme right-wing nominees through the Senate and fill the courts with regressive extremists for a generation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, put the move in perspective.
"In President Trump's first two years circuit court nominees have been confirmed nearly TWICE as fast as they were in President Obama's first two years," Feinstein said on Twitter. "In fact, President Trump and Leader McConnell have repeatedly bragged about their record-setting pace of confirmations."
In President Trump’s first two years circuit court nominees have been confirmed nearly TWICE as fast as they were in President Obama’s first two years. In fact, President Trump and Leader McConnell have repeatedly bragged about their record-setting pace of confirmations.— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) April 3, 2019
"This is not a Washington fight over quaint, genteel Senate courtesies," Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy and government affairs at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, wrote in an opinion piece for USA Today. "This is about how far McConnell will go to cram biased nominees through the Senate."
"McConnell has consistently broken the Senate to pack the courts," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
McConnell has consistently broken the Senate to pack the courts. In 2013 he put up a blockade, refusing to confirm any judge the President nominated to the DC Circuit. Then of course, the stolen SCOTUS seat. Then nuclear option for Gorsuch confirmation. Now nuclear option again.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 3, 2019
"Mitch McConnell just made it easier for Congress to rubber stamp Trump's extremist and unqualified nominees," said the Senate's other Oregon Democrat, Ron Wyden.
Mitch McConnell just made it easier for Congress to rubber stamp Trump’s extremist and unqualified nominees. https://t.co/jDGHmCeNZ6— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 3, 2019
In a fiery statement Wednesday, Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon demanded action from Senate Democrats—action, he argued, that has been lacking for over a decade.
"McConnell is going nuclear for the second time in two years to further speed up the conveyor belt of Trump judges," said Fallon. "In response, Democrats are doing lots of complaining, but they still haven’t backed up their words with any action."
While there might not be much the Democrats can do legislatively to stop the judges, Fallon argued that taking a stand, however quixotic, could be beneficial.
"Democrats may not have the power to stop Republicans from changing the Senate rules, but they do have the power to do more than just sulk about it," said Fallon. "They should start opposing all of Trump’s judges en masse."
And Fallon added, the party needs to look to the future in how it will deal with the courts once back in power.
"They should commit to adding seats to ensure the next Democratic president has the chance to pick judges who can restore balance to the courts," said Fallon.