Initial pace of Biden judicial confirmations exceeds that of Trump, Obama, and Bush at same point in presidency

 February 18, 2023

Arguably the top achievement of former President Donald Trump's tenure in office was the high number of conservative and constitutional originalist judges he nominated and saw confirmed by the Senate to serve in the federal judicial system.

It would appear that President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have also made judicial appointments a top priority, as the number of confirmations they have achieved to date currently exceeds that pace set by set by his three most recent predecessors, former Presidents Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush, ABC News reported.

However, despite the quick starting pace, the outlet noted that Biden was nonetheless unlikely to surpass the total number of 234 federal judges that Trump had confirmed by the end of his four-year term.

The reason for that is actually quite simple -- Trump and Senate Republicans under then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had substantially more judicial vacancies to be filled than Biden and Senate Democrats under current Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will ever have an opportunity to address.

A fast start won't win this race

ABC News noted that Tuesday marked the 100th confirmation of a federal judge appointed by President Biden, and that number climbed to 105 by Thursday.

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation's judicial appointment tracker, as of Feb. 16 of the third year of a president's first term, Biden's 105 total confirmed appointments beat Trump's 88 confirmations, Obama's 67 confirmations, and Bush's 103 confirmations, but fell short of the 128 confirmations to that point by former President Bill Clinton.

"Comparisons can be tricky since the factors that affect the confirmation pace can vary greatly from period to period," Thomas Jipping, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told ABC News, as total confirmations are highly dependent upon the "number and location of current vacancies, competing legislative priorities, the pace of nominations being sent to the Senate, etc."

"Since vacancies have been much lower under Biden than under Trump, the fact that Biden's appointment pace is faster means that his nominations team, and Senate Democrats on and off the Judiciary Committee, have been prioritizing judicial appointments," he added, and also pointed out that Biden was just slightly over the average since 1981 of just slightly under four judges confirmed per month.

Biden touts gender and racial diversity in judicial confirmations

President Biden issued a statement Tuesday to mark the 100th Senate confirmation of a federal judge he had appointed and proclaimed that his "proudest work" thus far was his efforts at "strengthening the federal judiciary with extraordinarily qualified judges who are devoted to our Constitution and the rule of law."

"I’m especially proud that the nominees I have put forward -- and the Senate has confirmed -- represent the diversity that is one of our best assets as a nation, and that our shared work has broken so many barriers in just 2 years," the president said.

Indeed, Biden highlighted the fact that of his two most recent confirmations at that point, one was the first Asian American to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals while the other, appointed to a district court in Puerto Rico, would be the "first openly LGBTQI+ judge to serve on that court."

He also pointed out that 76 percent of his appointees were women, 68 percent were minorities, that he had appointed the first black woman to the Supreme Court, and that he had successfully placed 12 black women on federal circuit courts, "more than all other Presidents combined."

A judge's gender and race shouldn't matter

Except that isn't how the federal judiciary is supposed to work, according to Jipping, who told ABC News that Biden's efforts to make the courts diverse and "representative" of the population "is the opposite of the impartial, independent judiciary that has been so important and distinctive in America," and "encourages people to believe that cases are decided by judges and their personal views rather than the law. It politicizes people's expectations."

"The most important factor in appointing judges should be the kind of judge a nominee will be, how he or she understands the power and proper role of the judiciary, not the race or sexual orientation," he added.

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Thomas Jefferson
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