With the confirmation of Andrew Oldham, 39, on Wednesday, the Trump administration has successfully pushed through the Senate the largest number of federal judges than any recent president in his first two years. The appointments are expected to help Trump pack federal courts with conservatives who will hear cases on hot-button topics such as abortion and LGBT rights, race-based affirmative action and immigration restrictions, significantly increasing the stakes of each judicial placement.
Media attention has largely focused on Trump’s Supreme Court appointments, but he came into the presidency with an uncommon number of vacancies for judges to federal appeals courts, who receive lifetime appointments. Confirmation of President Barack Obama’s picks frequently failed after Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015.
So far, Trump has confirmed 23 judges. Though most have replaced Republican appointees, it is still a sizable number of the 179 judgeship vacancies.
Bill Clinton had 19 judges confirmed by the end of his second year in office, George W. Bush had 17 confirmed and Obama had 16, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Ronald Reagan, who also installed 19 judges before his second year ended, completed two terms in office having filled one seventh of the entire federal bench. Reagan’s legacy far outlasted his presidency and led to legal superstars like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit Frank Easterbrook and D.C. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg.
The administration’s efforts experienced a hiccup Thursday when the White House withdrew the nomination of Ryan Bounds for the liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who had faced widespread criticism over failing to tell the judicial review committee about articles he wrote in the Stanford Review where he ridiculed multiculturalism, The Post’s Karoun Demirjian reported.
Still, conservative groups said the Republicans have been largely victorious.
“President Trump and [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell have accomplished this in the face of unprecedented head wind of Democratic opposition,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative political campaign organization.
Oldham, a staunch conservative jurist, was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday as a 5th Circuit court judge by a very tight margin of 50-49.
Oldham’s confirmation precedes what promises to be a contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing for D.C. circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh. Oldham, Trump’s third Texas appointee, will replace the Reagan- and Bush-appointed Edward Prado. Trump created the vacancy with Prado’s recent nomination as the U.S. ambassador to Argentina.
Historically, senators hailing from the state a federal judiciary nominee resides in may submit opinions, known as ‘blue slips,’ or choose not to return one.
Under Obama, Republicans used the blue slip prerogative to veto nominees, according to Russell Wheeler, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program. Trump, Wheeler said, is paying no attention to the home-state democratic senators’ opinions.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) did not immediately return a request for comment.
Trump has managed to push through judicial picks at a record pace because of a Republican-controlled Senate and changes in congressional rules, which now allow a simple majority for confirmation of judges instead of the 60 votes required earlier.
Trump’s year-two tally is still likely to grow.
Up next for committee consideration are two antiabortion jurists, David Porter, 52, and Britt Grant, 40. Grant, a former law clerk to Kavanaugh, was nominated by Trump to the judiciary in the last year. She is also one of nine recent Trump judicial nominees to be included on the president’s Supreme Court shortlist.