The Senate confirmed more than a dozen of President Donald Trump's lifetime judicial nominees during the two days that the country was captivated by the latest 2020 Democratic Party presidential debates.
"For too long, fairly uncontroversial judicial nominees just like these have been held up and delayed by our Democratic colleagues even when the vacancy qualifies as a judicial emergency," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "Uncontroversial district judges used to be confirmed promptly in big groups by voice vote."
Four federal district court judges were successfully confirmed on Tuesday and another nine were confirmed the following day. Of the 13 total confirmations, three judges — Karin Immergut in the District of Oregon, John Milton Younge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Mary Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois — were passed by voice votes.
The latest round of confirmations solely focused on U.S. district court judges — thereby representing a pivot from McConnell's prior focus on filling circuit court vacancies. Republicans had initially hoped to push through 19 of Trump's judicial picks before senators went back to their home states for the month-long August recess.
The Senate has confirmed more than 130 of Trump’s judicial nominees since the president was sworn into office, including U.S. Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump has often touted the record number of conservative judges that he has been able to successfully confirm to the bench, however he has also expressed frustration with the slow-moving confirmation process, accusing Democrats of stonewalling his executive and judicial nominees alike.
"Hundreds of good people, including very important Ambassadors and Judges, are being blocked and/or slow walked by the Democrats in the Senate," Trump tweeted in March. "Many important positions in Government are unfilled because of this obstruction. Worst in U.S. history!"
While the Senate advanced 13 lifetime judges, the Democratic Party was holding the second debate series for its 2020 presidential primary candidates. Consequently, seven Democratic senators skipped the judicial votes in order to appear on the debate stage.
Prior to the debate, a coalition of four progressive advocacy groups sent a letter to CNN urging the network to question the primary candidates on the Republicans' plan to move America "right of center" with judicial confirmations.
"Confronting this generational shift in our courts will be one of the most pressing issues for the next president — in fact, the viability of his or her entire agenda depends on it," the letter read. "At this week’s Democratic presidential primary debate, we urge you to ask presidential candidates how they will respond to the crisis in our courts."
"This is a critical issue that somehow escaped the meaningful discussion in the first Democratic debates in June," the letter continued. "The failures of the debate moderators to ask a single question about the Supreme Court was particularly confounding since the Court issued its highly controversial, 5-4 ruling to allow partisan gerrymandering on literally the same day as the second debate, and yet the candidates were not asked to respond at all."
CNN, however, declined to question candidates about the judiciary during the second debate.