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President Trump has nominated many federal judges for Senate confirmation. As this list from Wikipedia shows, there is a huge backlog of judiciary nominations.

For instance, only 20 judiciary nominations to the US District Courts are confirmed but there are ~75 nominations pending before or reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has mentioned in an interview with NPR that confirming judiciary nominations is a "top priority":

"There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important — in fact, I would argue, the most important — confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary."

"It would be a top priority and we would certainly move to confirm, if a vacancy occurred."

(emphasis mine)

However, only 1 or 2 judiciary nominations are usually confirmed at once.

So, why is it not possible for a large number (i.e. >5) of judges to be confirmed at once? And is it possible to confirm all ~75 nominations to the US District Courts before the end of the current session of Congress?

  • One obvious problem with confirming a large number at once is that there's a chance that some Senators will each object to a different nominee, thus making it harder to get the required number of votes to confirm them all. – jamesqf Jun 8 '18 at 4:38
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Senate rules allow for a certain amount of debate on each nominee (judicial or otherwise). In practice, this means that the minority can simply insist on the full amount of time for each nominee. So nominees can only be approved every thirty hours without a 60% supermajority to close debate early. Historically this didn't matter much, as it required a supermajority to close debate at all. But with the elimination of that, the minority has been standing on their remaining rights.

Example source for the thirty hours claim.

The majority could of course change the Senate rules again so that they can schedule votes on nominees faster.

In the context of this question, Republicans are the majority and Democrats are the minority. This may change in the future, as it has in the past. Some Republicans may be reluctant to change the rules now in case they might want to use the existing rules when they are in the minority. Of course, if they did, then the Democrats could change the rules at that time. The hope would be that the Democrats might be reluctant then for the same reason that Republicans are reluctant now.

TL;DR: yes, but only if they either change the rules or get enough Senators to agree.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer, especially the link which I find useful. Just an add-on question, why is it possible to confirm 2 judges at once (but not more than 2)? For instance, both Allison H. Eid and Stephanos Bibas were confirmed on Nov 2, 2017 with just a simple majority? Is it because cloture was successfully invoked? – Panda Jun 8 '18 at 4:36

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