Former President Donald Trump’s term in office will likely be remembered for the wide range of federal judicial nominees appointed to positions at all levels, including three U.S. Supreme Court justices.
Now, President Joe Biden is making progress in that regard with the Senate confirmation of two appointees this week.
“Professional excellence and devotion to the rule of law”
Although the chamber is evenly divided between the two parties, a number of Republicans joined Democrats in confirmation votes so that both nominees sailed through the process with bipartisan support.
Julien Neals was confirmed to the U.S. district court in New Jersey by a 66-33 margin and Regina Rodriguez was confirmed to U.S. district court in Colorado with a vote of 72-28.
Biden issued a statement touting the achievement, describing his picks as judges who “embody the professional excellence and devotion to the rule of law and our Constitution that the American people expect of federal judges.”
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) was confident ahead of the vote, asserting: “The Senate today will achieve an important milestone for the session: We will confirm the first of President Biden’s judicial nominees. The first, but certainly not the last, not even close.”
He noted that he anticipates “confirming what will be the first of many judicial appointments during the Biden administration.”
“Balance, experience, and diversity”
For his part, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had blocked Neals as a judicial appointee during the Obama administration and voted against him this week but was unable to prevent the confirmation.
As it stands, there are 71 vacancies in U.S. district courts and nine in the circuit court system. Five more Biden nominees have completed the review process and are available for Senate confirmation votes.
A growing chorus of progressives is calling on liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down while Democrats have a slim majority on Capitol Hill by which Biden could more easily name a replacement.
Trump effectively cemented a conservative majority to the federal judiciary during his administration, so Biden and Democratic lawmakers are hoping to confirm as many nominees as possible during the current session.