The importance of confirming Trump’s judges

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017


U.S. Senator

There’s an important issue that hasn’t gotten a lot of headlines, but it’s a key part of President Trump’s agenda. In fact, it will have a significant and beneficial impact on the future of our country for generations to come.

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This crucial issue is the confirmation of well-qualified individuals to serve as federal judges. Unlike the House of Representatives, it is the Senate’s responsibility to consider the President’s nominations to important positions in the judiciary and the Executive Branch. I have been closely working with President Trump to put talented judges on the bench – with a life-time appointment – who can help ensure the judiciary fulfills its proper role in our constitutional system.

After the inauguration, I reached out to the Trump Administration to discuss our shared priority to confirm highly-qualified judicial nominees promptly. The most consequential decision of my political life was to deny President Obama the chance to fill a Supreme Court vacancy on the way out the door in the middle of a presidential election. As a result, we now have U.S Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Just recently, the Senate confirmed four outstanding nominees in one week to serve on the appellate courts throughout the country. The federal circuit courts, just below the Supreme Court, have the final say in most federal cases. They’re critically important, and I applaud President Trump for selecting judges who respect the rule of law to sit on them.

For eight years, President Obama selected judicial nominees based on a so-called “empathy standard” – an ideological litmus test designed to find judicial nominees who would favor certain groups or individuals over others. This sounds like a great system, if you’re the one the judge has empathy for. It doesn’t sound so great for the other person. And even more, it rejects the foundational legal principle of dispensing equal justice under the law.

President Trump, on the other hand, is nominating highly-qualified men and women to serve on the federal courts who understand that their role is to put aside their personal preferences and instead decide cases based on what the law says. In other words, we’re working to confirm more jurists like Justice Gorsuch.

And we’re seeing the success in our efforts. During President Obama’s first year in office, he was only able to confirm three nominees to the federal circuit courts. By contrast, in a single week, the Senate confirmed four of President Trump’s circuit court nominees. So far this year, we have confirmed eight circuit court nominees, and we’re not slowing down any time soon.

I recently met with a Kentucky chapter of the Federalist Society to discuss my views. For the Commonwealth, I have been committed to confirming outstanding judges to serve on the federal courts in Kentucky.

I was proud to recommend that President Trump nominate Judge Amul Thapar of Kentucky to serve on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Thapar is a talented individual who served as a district court judge and a United States Attorney in Eastern Kentucky for many years. I was also proud to recommend the nomination of Judge John Bush, another highly-qualified Kentuckian confirmed to the Sixth Circuit. Both judges have a deep respect for the law and understand their responsibility to interpret it fairly in every case before them.

I would also like to commend the President for nominating three more intelligent, qualified, and fair-minded Kentuckians to serve as district court judges, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to confirm them soon.  

Unfortunately, the minority party in the Senate has thrown up partisan procedural hurdles to try to slow us down. Time and again, they have obstructed not to change the outcome, but just to delay the inevitable confirmations of qualified jurists.

But the Senate majority will not be deterred. We will confirm President Trump’s nominees to the federal bench. This is a fight worth having, and I am proud to lead it.

Putting qualified judges on federal courts who respect our Constitution and our laws will make a substantial, positive and lasting impact on this country. I look forward to confirming more of President Trump’s impressive judicial nominees.

Mitch McConnell is the senior U.S. senator from Kentucky and the Republican U.S. Senate majority leader.