Senate Democrats Just Let Trump Install 15 New Judges This Week. What Gives?

Cross-posted from Millennial Politics

During the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, Democrats reminded us of the stakes involved with the courts. Judges have a major impact on policy.

If only Democrats listened to their own advice.

Last week, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow 15 more of Trump’s judicial nominees to sail through the U.S. Senate in exchange for an earlier recess. The apparent “win” for Democrats was more time to campaign in advance of the November election. Republicans, by contrast, get lifetime appointees on a number of lower courts. Judges who will continue the unprecedented attack on civil rights, worker rights, consumer rights, and environmental protection.

The Senate operates on unanimous consent. In other words, the Senate can only move forward if no one present objects. This offers an opportunity for a minority party to delay proceedings. If Democrats had objected to McConnell’s plan to advance the nominees, then McConnell would have had to file what’s called “cloture” for each one — i.e. a motion to proceed. And there would have been a certain amount of time specified for debate before the final vote could happen.

In that alternate scenario, could Trump’s nominees still have gotten through? Probably! But they would get through a lot more slowly, and thus have less time in office to do damage.

Trump will likely have a huge impact on the future of the American judiciary, as the Senate has been confirming record numbers of nominees to fill vacancies McConnell refused to allow Obama to fill.

So what did Democrats get out of the deal? More time to campaign? If Democrats wanted an earlier recess, they could have just gone home. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), one of the most at-risk senators, decided to do just that.

The Votes

The confirmation of 9 of the nominees received recorded votes on Thursday night. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) all voted to confirm a majority of the 9, with Jon Tester (D-MT) not far behind.

Only 16 Democrats consistently voted no: Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).