The Senate confirmed Cory T. Wilson of Mississippi to a New Orleans-based circuit court on the united Democratic opposition on Wednesday, giving President Trump the 200th federal judicial confirmation of his mandate and achieving the Republican goal of filling every opening of the appeals court at the end of the year.
By winning Senate approval, Judge Wilson, a conservative state court judge and former Mississippi lawmaker, became the 53rd judge of the federal appeals court installed by Mr. Trump and consolidated a landmark legacy court that has reformed the federal courts during his administration, including putting in place two justices of the Supreme Court. Republicans praised the achievement. The vote was 52-48.
“This will be a historic moment for this agency and for the administration,” said Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, a staunch advocate of Judge Wilson. The Senate confirmation of 200 judges since 2017, he said, is the highest total in a president’s first term since President Jimmy Carter.
“The seat we are voting to fill is actually the last remaining circuit court vacancy at the moment, reflecting the remarkable progress we have made in rebuilding the federal judiciary,” added Mr. Wicker.
Under Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Majority Leader, Senate Republicans have prioritized confirmation by conservative judges rather than considering legislation in the heavily divided chamber, as nominations can advance without the support of minority Democrats.
McConnell even adopted an informal slogan to characterize the effort: not to vacate. This year, Republicans have stepped up their efforts to confirm as many Trump court candidates as possible before November, when the president could lose reelection or his majority in the Senate, removing his control over the confirmation process.
“After number 200, when we get out of this chamber today, there will be no single circuit court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years,” McConnell said Wednesday, repeating the statistic to emphasize. “It is a victory for the rule of law and for the Constitution itself.”
Before the vote, Democrats unsuccessfully asked McConnell to withdraw the nomination from the room, saying Judge Wilson was an embarrassing option at the moment due to his record of voting rights, among other objections.
“Judge Wilson has been a fervent advocate of restrictive voting measures, including voter identification laws, that disproportionately harm minority voters, and has shown a pattern of rejection of the legitimate concerns of voting rights groups “Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, wrote to Mr. McConnell.
“Naming someone in the Fifth Circuit who addresses the concerns of African American citizens and community advocates regarding the effects of voter ID laws as ‘poppycock’ is a slap in the face for black Americans at one point that our country is working to take progress toward racial justice, not backward, “the Democrats wrote.
Democrats also criticized Judge Wilson for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, saying that he and another appeals court judge confirmed last week, Judge Justin Walker of Kentucky, were put in court for help unravel the law.
But a series of changes to Senate rules since 2013 have essentially removed the minority’s ability to delay judicial nominations, a significant factor in empowering Republicans to push hundreds of new federal judges despite deep Democratic opposition to The majority of them.
Republicans deliberately focused on appeals courts, saying that most important and binding court decisions have occurred at that level since the Supreme Court has heard a relatively small number of cases.
Carl W. Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond School of Law, said it was the first time since the Reagan administration that there had been no vacancies among the 179 appellate judges authorized by Congress. He noted that the aggressive push by Trump’s White House and Senate Republicans had changed the composition of three circuits from a majority of judges nominated by Democrats to a majority nominated by Republicans. The effort also added to the existing majority of Republican-nominated judges in other circuits and increased conservative representation in the liberal Ninth Circuit on the west coast, he said.
There may be even more vacancies this year, and Republicans have indicated they would move to fill them despite the informal tradition of suspending court confirmations at the end of an election year.
More than 70 vacancies remain in the Federal District Court. The pace of filling them has moved slower because home state Democrats still have influence over those options, complicating the Trump administration’s efforts to get quick confirmation of its preferred candidates.