The push comes after former President Donald Trump, together with then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, appointed more than 200 federal justices and three Supreme Court justices during his tenure. Federal judges are appointed for life and serve long after a president leaves office.
Six months after Biden’s presidency began, eight of his judicial candidates have been confirmed. That’s more than any other president at the same time in the past 50 years.
Tiffany Cunningham became the eighth judge appointed by Biden when the Senate confirmed her on Monday to serve as the circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Cunningham also makes history as the first black judge on the Federal Tour.
In addition to Cunningham, Biden has had two other circuit judges and five senior district judges. Biden’s nominees reflect his promise to appoint a more diverse justice system, and many of his choices are women and minorities. Last month, the Senate confirmed that Zahid Quraishi was the first Muslim federal court judge in the country’s history.
Biden served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995 and is imbued with the nuances of the judicial confirmation process.
“He’s no stranger to this stuff. He knows what it’s about. He knows what the issues are and he acts on it,” said Russell Wheeler, Visiting Research Fellow in the Governance Studies Program. of the Brookings Institution and Chairman of the Governance Institute. CNN in an interview.
Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain also brings a wealth of knowledge to the process. Klain has been at the center of Supreme Court confirmations for much of the past three decades as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a leading advocate in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations. .
“President Biden – along with the Senate – has had more confirmed federal judges in the first year of his presidency than any president in the past 50 years, and has had more confirmed African American women for the United States Court of Appeals in a single presidential term than any other president in history, “a White House official told CNN.
Democrats are pushing to quickly fill vacancies in the federal justice system when they have a slim majority in the Senate.
Schumer said on the Senate floor last week: “The Senate has already confirmed more circuit and district court judges by July 4 than in the first year of any presidency in recent history. We will continue this work. essential in the months to come and restore the balance – a much needed balance – in the federal judiciary. ”
While the administration moved quickly to have judges appointed to lower court seats to respond to Schumer’s call for balance in the justice system, there is one major appointment Biden still hasn’t had the opportunity to make: a seat on the Supreme Court.
At this point in his tenure, Trump had already confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the bench, along with three other federal judges. He would go on to reshape the country’s highest court with two additional Supreme Court appointments – Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
There have been no Supreme Court vacancies for Biden, but the wait is on whether Judge Stephen Breyer will step down and give Democrats a chance to replace him while they still hold a majority in the Senate. Breyer recently told CNN he has not decided when he will retire, despite increasing pressure from Democrats.
Obama had no confirmed federal judges on the bench in his first six months in office, but Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to the Supreme Court shortly after the six-month mark. Former President George W. Bush had three confirmed federal judges six months after the start of his first term, and former Clinton had no confirmed federal judges in that time.
Biden’s 32 federal judicial candidates so far have included public defenders, civil rights attorneys, and labor attorneys. They would increase the number of black and Native American judges on the federal bench.
Wheeler noted that the president is under pressure from some advocacy groups to support the expansion of the Supreme Court, and said appointing federal judges at a rapid pace could be a way to appease those groups. Earlier this year, Biden created a bipartisan commission to examine the potential expansion of the Supreme Court or setting term limits for judges.
Wheeler also said that another reason for speeding up the process is that if Breyer were to resign and create a vacant position on the court, a Supreme Court appointment process would stop all other confirmations for other justices.
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