Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee struck a bipartisan tone on Wednesday as they opened hearings in the new Congress on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.
“Elections have consequences,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican. “Let’s work together and see if we can get some nominations moving.”
Graham followed remarks by the panel’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who encouraged Republicans to work with Democrats to jointly support trial court nominees, especially.
“We ask them to engage with the White House in good faith,” Durbin said.
The hearing was the first under an expanded Democratic Senate majority after November’s midterms and Graham’s first in the role of ranking member.
Graham has, in the past, remarked on the “consequences of elections” in the context of judicial confirmations. He’s generally deferred to presidents on judges, and has supported more than 75% of Biden lower court nominees so far. Although, he didn’t support Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Graham also chaired the Judiciary Committee for two years under President Donald Trump when he steered judicial nominations through the process.
Red-state judicial vacancies are poised to be more important for Biden in the next two years after he prioritized filling seats in blue states in the first half of his administration. Durbin has already encouraged the White House and Republicans to compromise on district nominations.
Durbin said at the hearing that Republicans have returned 12 so-called “blue slips” on Biden selections, a custom requiring support from both home-state senators before a nomination can proceed. “I think we could do better,” he said.
Democrats have so far maintained the practice of requiring blue slips for district nominees while progressives want the practice eliminated so more Biden judicial nominees can be confirmed.
Durbin also praised Indiana’s Republican senators for working with the White House on Matthew P. Brookman’s nomination to the US District Court for the District of Indiana. Brookman, a US magistrate judge, was one of five district selections that appeared at the hearing Wednesday.
“At a time when criminal justice, drug use, and violent crime are a primary concern in my state, Hoosiers will be comforted knowing they have an experienced and fair judge on the bench,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) said while introducing Brookman at the hearing.
The other nominees were Charnelle Bjelkengren for the Eastern District of Washington; Orelia Eleta Merchant for the Eastern District of New York; and Michael Farbiarz and Robert Kirsch, both for the District of New Jersey.