The Republicans have been able to get President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court confirmed, and are now in a position to fill dozens of federal posts in the judiciary to shape some of the country’s highest courts.
Democrats have few weapons to stop them.
The Republican opportunity comes when his party is in control of Congress and the White House. There are 120 seats in federal districts and appeals courts, after years of partisan fights for court nominations.
Frustrated by Republican obstruction in 2013, the then Democratic majority shifted the rules of the Senate so that court nominations and courts of appeals are proof of delaying tactics, meaning that it now only takes 51 votes, a simple majority in the Senate Of 100 members, for confirmation.
Republicans now have 52 seats.
The changes made by the Democrats did not apply to Supreme Court nominees. But Republican senators are now the majority, and they changed the regulations this month to confirm federal judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in spite of the Democratic opposition. As a result, the Republican Party can guarantee confirmation of future Supreme Court nominees if there are more vacancies under the Trump government and Republicans remain the majority.
“The Trump government has the opportunity to really put its seal on the future of the federal judiciary,” says Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society and Trump’s advisor to the Gorsuch nomination.
Reflecting a conservative judicial philosophy, Leo says that the uncountable number of vacancies Trump inherited could reorient the appellate courts, especially, “in a way that better reflects the traditional role of the judiciary, which is to interpret the law by sticking to the letter and Highlight the limits of government power established in the Constitution. “
That philosophy was a priority for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch will replace, and Trump said he wants the federal judiciary to reflect those values.
There are currently 20 vacancies in the federal appeals courts, which are one level below the Supreme Court, and about 100 more in district courts, where cases usually begin. Of the current vacancies, 49 are considered judicial emergencies, designation based on the number of lawsuits filed in a district and in the period that the position has been vacant.