President Donald Trump gave thanks to his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, on Monday night for leaving so many federal judicial vacancies when he left the White House after his term expired.
“Well, thank you, Mr. President, for making America great again,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) said during a rally in Lexington, Kentucky. ” … and working together we are changing the federal courts forever.”
“Nobody has done more to change the court system in the history of our country than Donald Trump,” he continued. “And Mr. President, we are going to keep on doing it — my motto is leave no vacancy behind.”
Trump, who was hosting a rally in the Blue Grass state in preparation for tomorrow’s gubernatorial election, was joined by McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). McConnell is widely credited with holding the seat for Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nomination to the Supreme Court. He also was instrumental in pushing through Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite wildly contentious hearings with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“So, President Obama left Mitch, and me, and Rand, and all of us, he left 142 openings for judges,” Trump told the crowd. “You’re not supposed to allow any, you don’t do that. You know, they say the most important thing that a president can do is federal judges, including the Supreme Court, obviously.”
“And I came in and I said ‘how many do we have?’ And they said ‘how many what, sir?’ I said ‘judge openings.’ And I thought they would say none, or one, or two. They said ‘Sir, we have 142.’ I said ‘what?’ I said ‘tell me again.’ They said 142,” he continued. “So Mitch, and I, and Rand would like to thank very much President Obama because nobody has ever been so generous in their life.”
The Senate has confirmed more than 150 of the president’s judicial nominees since he was sworn into office. Trump has often touted the record number of conservative judges that he has been able to successfully confirm to the bench, which many consider to be his greatest accomplishment and will ultimately be his legacy. However, he has also expressed frustration with the slow-moving confirmation process, accusing Democrats of stonewalling his executive and judicial nominees alike.
The president has facetiously expressed gratitude to Obama in the past for failing to fill all the federal judicial occupancies that remained during his administration. When Trump first took office, there were more than 100 lifetime appointee vacancies in the lower court, including 17 in the United States Court of Appeals. While the Supreme Court reviews approximately 75 cases per year, the Court of Appeals hears tens of thousands, for which they are the last word.
“They are the ones that judge all of your disputes,” Trump said of the lower courts in March 2018. “They judge what is fair on the environment and what is not.”
“I don’t know why Obama left that,” he added, referring to the vacancies. “It was like a big, beautiful present to all of us.”