Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is the target of a new digital ad campaign launched by progressives encouraging him to speed up the pace on President Joe Biden’s federal judicial nominees.
Demand Justice, a progressive group focused on judicial nominations, and Indivisible Chicago Alliance, a local progressive group, said Monday they made at six-figure ad buy that will target Illinois, Durbin’s home state.
“Tell Senator Durbin: Don’t give Mitch McConnell a chance to block Biden’s Judges. #FillEverySeat,” one ad reads.
The campaign comes as progressives worry about the Senate potentially changing hands after the midterms, undoing the slim Democratic majority that aids the confirmation process. Their aim is to get Durbin to add more hearing days, even if it disrupts scheduled recesses.
“Even though Senator Durbin’s leadership has led to approval of more judges and better-qualified judges, Democrats aren’t meeting the moment,” Indivisible Chicago Alliance Board Chair Kathy Tholin said in a statement.
In response to the announcement, a Durbin spokesperson underscored the number of nominees currently pending action by the full Senate. Sixteen await a procedural vote and three await a discharge vote after their nominations tied in committee.
“Chair Durbin would like to see these pending nominees confirmed swiftly, and will continue to work with the Leader to find appropriate floor time,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also pointed to the historic pace of judicial confirmations the White House and Senate Democrats were able to achieve during Biden’s first year in office—the most confirmations at that point in a presidency since John F. Kennedy.
The theme of the campaign—filling all existing vacancies—isn’t likely possible unless Democrats change norms surrounding the confirmation process. Demand Justice in June estimated more than 60 judgeships would go unfilled at the current rate.
The Judiciary Committee has been moving at a regular pace of one nominations hearing every two weeks when the Senate is in session, with two circuit and three district nominees per hearing.
In a June letter and memo to Durbin, Biden, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), more than 30 progressive groups, including Demand Justice, suggested that Democrats add additional hearing days and increase the number of nominees considered at each hearing.
Last week, the Biden administration appeared to respond to calls to increase the pace by releasing new judicial nominations list on each of three consecutive days. The announcements totaled 16 new nominations, including one circuit pick.
The White House on July 15 also dropped plans to nominate conservative lawyer Chad Meredith to a district court seat in Kentucky after it learned Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wouldn’t support—or return a “blue slip"—on his nomination.
Reports that Meredith, who defended abortion restrictions, was poised to be nominated after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade outraged the left.
While support from both home state senators via blue slips isn’t needed at the circuit level, it is still needed for district court seats.
Spokespeople for McConnell and Paul didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.