Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to get back to work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to fill up remaining vacancies in the judiciary — and he is already off to a great start.
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Judge Justin R. Walker to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 51–42 vote, The Washington Times reported. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME) sided with Democrats against the judge, according to the Times.
Filling those vacancies
One of the less celebrated, but very important, roles of any president is to ensure our federal judiciary is properly staffed. When President Trump took office, there were more than 100 seats sitting empty throughout our federal court system.
Trump and Senate Republicans have been on a mission to fill every one of them — and thus far, they have done a rather remarkable job.
According to the Times, Walker was only appointed as a lower court judge last year, so his meteoric rise to the D.C. Circuit Court is a rather significant achievement. The D.C. Circuit has served as the training ground for several Supreme Court justices, including Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh.
Even though virtually every Senate Republican was on board with Walker’s appointment, there always has to be one. Sen. Collins, who has a more moderate constituency, sided with Dems on this one, likely in an attempt to show voters that she doesn’t side with Trump all the time.
Of course, she did vote to confirm him to a lower federal court late last year, the Times noted.
Complaining about timing?
It was this point that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) capitalized on his argument against Walker. According to the Times, Schumer blasted Republicans for pushing through the nomination during the COVID-19 pandemic before using Collins’ defection as proof, in the Times‘ words, “that Senate Republicans moved too quickly.”
“There is no reason to do this nomination now. There is no stunning number of vacancies on the D.C. Circuit,” Schumer said, according to the Times.
He went on: “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and a national conversation about racial justice and police reform; this is about the Republican leader and his relentless pursuit of a right-wing judiciary.”
But it’s no surprise that Schumer feels that way: there are far more liberals in the judiciary than conservatives, and he would like to maintain that left-leaning imbalance.
That won’t be the case if President Donald Trump keeps getting his way, however.