'His priority as pandemic rages on': McConnell readies blitz to pack courts with Trump's judicial appointees

'His priority as pandemic rages on': McConnell readies blitz to pack courts with Trump's judicial appointees
Gage Skidmore.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under renewed fire from progressives for refusing to act on a pandemic relief package for struggling Americans while moving to advance more of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees.

"Today marks six months since the House passed the HEROES Act, but guess what McConnell is focused on this week: judges," Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, tweeted Sunday.

"He's lined up votes on SIX Trump judicial nominees (for lifetime seats) instead of passing meaningful Covid relief. That's his priority as the pandemic rages on," added Gupta.

Newsweek reported last week on the pending confirmations, noting that the president "could still appoint a dozen or more judges during his final months in office"—actions that would further the "steady stream of judicial confirmations [that] has flowed through the Senate Floor under Trump's presidency."

"Instead of focusing on helping Americans during this devastating public health crisis, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans only care about confirming more anti-choice, anti-healthcare Trump judges," tweeted NARAL Pro-Choice America on Saturday.

As Law360 put it, "Trump has reshaped the federal judiciary at a staggering rate." By the outlet's count, Trump has already seen 53 of his picks for circuit judges and 164 district judges confirmed. That tally is in addition to the confirmations of Trump's three right-wing Supreme Court justices, with Amy Coney Barrett being the latest addition. And with the judicial appointees being younger on average than the last several administrations and "because these are lifetime appointments, they're poised to serve for decades to come, shaping American law and politics long after Trump leaves office," reported ProPublica.

McConnell has made no effort to hide his intention to advance the reshaping of the judiciary, including through the final days of the Trump administration—in contrast to his obstruction during the Obama administration.

"We're going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the president," Mr. McConnell said last month. "We're going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well," he said.

Just last week, the GOP-controlled Senate continued to green-light the nominees with the Thursday 56-21 confirmation of Aileen Mercedes Cannon to be a district judge in the Southern District of Florida.

With six more Trump judicial nominees heading for confirmation this week, advocacy group People For the American Way (PFAW) urged Senate Democrats to take a stand.

In a letter sent Friday, the group wrote (pdf), in part:

Instead of supporting the nominees that the Republican majority is attempting to ram through at this late date, Democratic senators should use this opportunity to talk about the vital role federal courts play in protecting the rights and the health of the American people. In this way, they can demonstrate a clean break with the Republican agenda, which has been to name judges who will put the interests of the powerful ahead of the rights of the rest of us in areas including corporate power, police violence, access to healthcare, racial justice, voting rights, and LGBTQ+ equality.

According to PFAW president Ben Jealous, Democratic inaction must simply not be an option.

"It is literally sickening to see Mitch McConnell continue to indulge his partisan obsession with confirming far-right judges, instead of taking action on the Covid pandemic that continues to spin out of control," he said in a statement Friday.

"It's time for [Democrats] to speak out, forcefully, clearly, and insistently, against the judicial nominees of this lame-duck president. Not only is the timing egregious," he added, "but this group of nominees expected to be processed next week includes some of the worst-qualified and inexperienced we've seen to date."

"Democrats need to step up and say so by voting against these nominees and making the full force of their objections absolutely clear," said Jealous.

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