Up to four of former President Barack Obama’s judicial selections could be confirmed before the week is out as the Senate plows through a long list of nominees heading into the August recess.
The Republican-led chamber on Tuesday confirmed one of them, James “Wes” Hendrix, 89 to 1, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) voting no.
Hendrix was the third district judge confirmed this week, leaving 16 nominees who could face cloture or confirmation votes between now and Thursday, when lawmakers are scheduled to leave town for a month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters at a news conference off the floor that the Senate won’t depart until it’s “finished all the items” on its agenda, including the judicial nominees. Votes were scheduled into the night.
But Republicans continued to make clear their desire for a deal on a package that would incorporate the current list and possibly others that could be pushed through the chamber without holding separate votes for each.
“There’s a deal to be had,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a former top vote counter as GOP whip and current senior member of the Judiciary Committee.
President Donald Trump has aggressively moved to fill more than 130 vacancies up and down the judiciary, stocking the courts with judges who are overwhelmingly white, male, and conservative. These include Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Gambling that a Republican would win the White House in 2016, Senate Republicans blocked a number of Obama judicial selections. These holdups included Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a move that enraged Democrats.
About a dozen Obama-era district court nominees were renominated by Trump, and a handful were confirmed soon after he took office in 2017.
Unfilled for Years
If confirmed to the Dallas-based U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Hendrix would fill a vacancy classified as a judicial emergency. It has sat unfilled since December 2014.
Hendrix has worked as a federal prosecutor in northern Texas since 2007. He was previously an associate at Baker Botts in Dallas and clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit after law school.
Cloture motions for other Obama holdovers were withdrawn late on Tuesday, leaving it unclear if they’ll be part of any package this week or will be considered at a later time. They are John Younge, nominated to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Mary McElroy, nominated to the District of Rhode Island; and Stephanie Gallagher, nominated to the District of Maryland.
The Senate also on Tuesday voted 53 to 37 to confirm Michael Liburdi, Trump’s pick for a district court seat in Arizona, and 68 to 22 to confirm Peter Welte, his pick for a district court opening in North Dakota.
Lawmakers also voted to invoke cloture, or end debate, on the nomination of Sean Jordan to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Jordan would fill a seat that’s been empty since 2015.
If the Senate confirms all of the nominees for whom McConnell filed cloture, it would bring the number of judges tapped for lifetime appointments by Trump to 150.
— With assistance from Nancy Ognanovich.
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(Adds that cloture motions for five nominees withdrawn.)