- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2019

Senate Republicans confirmed President Trump’s 100th federal judge on Thursday, speeding through a series of picks this week thanks to the GOP’s nuclear option move last month.

Judge Rudolfo Armando Ruiz II was No. 100, approved on a 90-8 vote to a seat on a U.S. district court in Florida. The Senate also approved two other district judges Thursday, bringing to eight the number of nominees approved in floor votes this week.

That’s a much faster pace than could have happened under the old rules before Majority Leader Mitch McConnell triggered the nuclear option to change the rules.

“We’re beginning to make better progress,” he said.

Prior to the rules change, it would have taken 30 hours of additional debate, even after a filibuster had been defeated, before the Senate could hold a final confirmation vote on any nominee.

Senators could exhaust an entire week’s worth of floor time confirming just four or five positions.

Using the nuclear option, a shortcut to alter the rules by a majority vote, Republicans cut the maximum time for most nominees to be debated to just 2 hours.

With the speedier process in place, Mr. McConnell has said the Senate will dedicate time to getting the president’s picks approved for positions in his administration and, perhaps more consequentially, seats on the federal courts.

Six of this week’s approvals were district judges.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Mr. McConnell is trying to pack the bench with judges who will approve a “far-right” agenda while blocking liberals’ priorities like climate change and gun violence.

“The Republican Senate has spent nearly all of its time so far rubber stamping nominees — so many of whom are unqualified, so many of whose views, whether they be judicial or executive appointments, are so far out of the American mainstream — and ignoring real legislation that could help middle-class families,” the New York Democrat said.

Republicans, though, say Democrats are mounting obstruction against many of Mr. Trump’s picks for little good reason.

Mr. McConnell pointed out that the nominee to be general counsel for the Energy Department was cleared 68 to 31, the director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation 72 to 27, and the assistant secretary of state by 90 to 8, revealing abundant bipartisan support for the picks.

“It would be almost comical if it weren’t a sad reminder of how pointless the past two years’ obstruction has been,” he added.

The rules change Republicans approved last month is similar to an agreement Republicans and Democrats had in place in 2013 for President Obama’s picks.

That arrangement expired in 2015 and Democrats balked at restoring it, saying Mr. Trump’s nominees have been so bad they need extra time to be debated.

Even under the new rules, Cabinet-level appointees and circuit and Supreme Court nominees still can face up to 30 hours of additional debate even once a filibuster is surmounted.

When Democrats triggered the nuclear option to defang the power of the filibuster on nominees in 2013, it sparked retaliation by Republicans, who used parliamentary tactics to slow down the chamber’s business.

Democrats have not flexed those powers this time around, however.

Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, said the absence of any push back is an admission on the part of Democrats that they’d gone too far and things were bound to snap back.

“They overreached,” he said.

Yet Democrats did complain about some of the specific judges approved.

Marge Baker, executive vice president of the progressive People for the American Way, said two of the nominees confirmed this week were “narrow-minded elitists” that won’t “put aside their personal ideologies.”

She took issue with Texas lawyer Campbell Barker and Alabama’s solicitor general Andrew Brasher, who were both confirmed to district court seats by party-line votes Wednesday.

“These nominees are blatant examples of Trump’s attempt to stack the federal courts with right-wing ideologues,” said Ms. Baker.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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