The Senate confirmed President Trump’s 19th federal judge Thursday, approving James Ho for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and further bolstering the judicial army that conservatives wanted to build.
Mr. Ho, confirmed on a 53-43 vote, becomes the first Asian-American on that appeals court. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joined Republicans in voting for Mr. Ho.
He’s the third federal appeals court judge the Senate confirmed this week, and the 19th judge overall. That’s well ahead of the 14 that President Obama had won by the end of his first year, but behind the pace of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“If the tax bill does not pass, President Trump can claim the confirmation of judges as his most significant achievement in the first year,” said Carl Tobias, law professor at the University of Richmond.
Mr. Trump entered office facing more than 100 judicial vacancies, including one on the Supreme Court. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was his first court victory, and he’s followed it up with a series of confirmations, the majority coming on the federal appeals courts, which are particularly crucial.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, celebrated Mr. Ho’s confirmation and the quick pace he’s overseen on behalf of Mr. Trump.
“Proud to say the judiciary committee + the senate made history 2day by confirming the 12th circuit judge this year. the MOST in the 1st [year] of any president in the 228 [year] history of our country,” Mr. Grassley tweeted.
But the White House did admit to a stumble this week, telling the Judiciary Committee it would not move forward with two district court picks after questions were raised about their past behavior.
Brett Talley, who didn’t disclose a potential conflict of interest with his wife working as chief of staff for White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and appeared to blog in defense of the Ku Klux Klan, will have his nomination withdrawn as will Jeff Mateer, who said transgender children were part of “Satan’s plan.”
All told, Mr. Trump has made more than 50 nominees, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has made it clear confirming those picks is his top priority.
“As you’ve noticed, as soon as the circuit judge comes out of committee, I call them up. I’m in charge of the schedule. I gotta choose what to bring up. Confirmation of circuit court judges is my top priority. As they come out of the committee, they will be called up,” he said during a radio interview last month.
Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America, said Mr. Trump is delivering on his promise to place conservative justices on the federal bench, which she said is the main reason his base voted for him.
“I hear it everywhere I go. The excitement is palpable,” Ms. Nance said.
Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, said judicial confirmations are usually high during the first year of a presidency and then steadily decrease. But he said this administration could be different.
“I don’t think you’ll see that with Trump because there’s so many vacancies, so I think you’re going to see a big pace,” Mr. Levey said.