Politics

McConnell Prepared to Confirm Judges Through New Year’s

Majority leader said he would clear judicial nominations through committee by end of 2018

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will be confirming judges through the end of December if needed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is prepared to work up until New Year’s Day to keep confirming judicial nominations.

“I can tell you that if we have to stay until December 31, we’re going to do the judges that come out of committee,” the Kentucky Republican said. “They’ll be voted on this year.”

McConnell made his comments during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, which aired Thursday morning.

The Senate has confirmed 33 of Trump’s picks for the federal courts in the 115th Congress, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and 15 appeals court judges, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“We’re going to continue to confirm judges all year,” the majority leader said. “The Congress doesn’t stop with the elections. It goes until the end of the year. We’re going to do six more [circuit nominations] next week, which will bring us to 21. I’m processing them as quickly as they come out of the Judiciary Committee, and the administration is sending them up rapidly.”

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“My goal, Hugh, is to confirm all the circuit and district court judges that come out of committee this calendar year, all of them,” McConnell said.

That would be a particular challenge, and might require a particularly turbulent lame-duck session, if the Republicans were to lose control of the Senate at the polls in November.

The Senate has confirmed 33 of President Donald Trump’s picks for the federal courts in the 115th Congress, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and 15 appeals court judges, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

McConnell said he wants to see the 2018 midterms in part be a referendum on the judicial picks of Trump.

“I hope so,” McConnell said. “I think the American people do care about getting a fair shake when you go to court, about having a judge sitting there who is not trying to get an outcome that he may personally prefer.”

While McConnell said he was hopeful about retaining the Senate Republican majority, particularly given the favorable 2018 map, he did say it would be a challenge with Trump in the Oval Office.

“It’s going to be a challenging year,” McConnell said. “History tells you it will not be a great year for the party of the president.”

McConnell said that he would be working to tilt what has been the generally liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a more conservative direction, noting blue slips no longer provide veto power to individual home state senators on appeals court vacancies.

“My view is, no one senator, ought to be able to stop a circuit court judge,” McConnell said.

He acknowledged, however, that Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa may have to work out the process for California-based Ninth Circuit seats with his ranking member since Sen. Dianne Feinstein represents the Golden State.

McConnell said blue slips halting Judiciary Committee consideration of district court nominations would continue for the rest of this Congress.

He also said in the event Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to announce retirement from the bench, a potential Supreme Court battle would move to the front of the judicial confirmation pipeline.

“If there is a Supreme Court vacancy, it takes priority. No question about it,” McConnell said.

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