As the Senate left for recess on Thursday, Aug. 1 for five weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), praised the achievements of the chamber, including a hard-won budget agreement that staves off a probable government shutdown.
But at the top of McConnell’s list was this week’s Senate confirmations of 13 judicial nominees of President Donald Trump. The actions bring the number of judges the Senate has confirmed since President Trump took office in 2017 to more than 140.
McConnell called the Senate votes “big progress for the federal judiciary,” adding that “for too long, thoroughly uncontroversial judicial nominees just like these have been held up and delayed by our Democratic colleagues.”
The nominee confirmations were spread out throughout the week with four confirmations on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday, three of which were by voice votes, according to The Hill.
“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. Uncontroversial district judges used to be confirmed promptly in big groups by voice vote,” McConnell said from the Senate floor ahead of the votes on Wednesday.
This week’s approval of the 13 judges marks a decline from the 19 Senate Republicans nominees that they had planned to confirm before leaving Washington until September. It is expected that six other nominees will get a vote once the Senate returns.
Liberal protesters denounced the decisions of the Senate and said Democrats should have worked harder to prevent or at least delay the nominees.
“We realize we don’t have votes to stop these people, but Democrats shouldn’t lay down and confirm judges in a quick timeline,” said Brian Fallon, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer who now leads Demand Justice, a progressive group created to counter long-running conservative advocacy on the judiciary.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic candidate for president, faulted Senate Democrats for failing to block Trump-appointed judges.
“We have to stop giving him a pass,” Inslee told MSNBC on Thursday. “They’ve approved his judge selections so they can go on recess. These are lifetime appointments. … It’s more important than their vacation, frankly.”
Six of the 13 judges approved this week come from Texas, two from Illinois and Pennsylvania each, and one from Arizona, North Dakota, and Oregon each.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), praised the Texas judges, especially Jason Pulliam, the first African American judge in the Western District of Texas, and Jeffrey Brown, a Texas Supreme Court justice. Cornyn served on the state Supreme Court before being elected to the Senate.
“Each of these nominees has shown their legal acumen, clear judgment, and unwavering commitment to the rule of law,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor.
Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, meanwhile, hailed the two Illinois judges approved by the Senate, Martha Pacold and Mary Rowland.
A vote on a third Illinois nominee, Steven Seeger, was postponed until September.
Republicans have confirmed more than 100 court appointments for President Trump since 2017, including two Supreme Court justices and a record number of appeals court judges.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press