Before the Senate left for August recess, Mitch McConnell attempted to push through 19 Trump judicial nominees. He was successful in confirming 13 of the 19 and is expected to continue this rampage of confirmation when the Senate resumes on Monday.
McConnell’s dogged pursuit of reshaping the judiciary in Trump’s molding has led to the confirmation of nearly 150 Trump-nominated judges to lifetime positions. Trump has appointed nearly 20% of the entire federal judiciary in his two and a half years of office. Just to provide a comparison of how fast McConnell has worked to confirm Trump nominees: in the last 2 years of Obama’s term, McConnell only allowed 22 judges to be confirmed- practically the same number that he was trying to confirm in just one week!
Not only has McConnell been able to speedily confirm nominees, including August’s monster package, but he has been able to do so even though the nominees have very troubling records.
Take, for example, nominee Michael Liburdi. He was chairman of the Arizona Right to Life PAC from 2010 to 2014, where he regularly endorsed anti-abortion candidates, including Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ). After Ducey was elected, he hired Liburdi to be his chief counsel. While in that role, Ducey signed into law a harmful and invasive anti-abortion bill that requires women to fill out a “checklist” justifying their reasons for accessing abortion care and requires providers to turn over that information to the state government.
The Senate also confirmed anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion nominee Jeffrey Brown for a lifetime position as a district judge in Texas. Brown has openly opposed Roe v. Wade. He has quoted one of the dissenting opinions from Roe on his Twitter account: “I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment.” He has regularly mischaracterized birth control as “potentially life-terminating drugs and devices.” He was also endorsed by the Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization, during his campaign to become state supreme court justice, an organization he applauded and outwardly supported during his campaign. As a state court judge, Brown disparaged the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality decision in a court opinion that ultimately dismissed a challenge to Texas’s ban on gay marriage. In his concurrence, he begrudgingly admitted that Obergefell was binding precedent, but still asserted that: “the status quo was that marriage in Texas was limited to the union of one man and one woman. So says the Texas Constitution, the Texas Family Code, and Texas common law. Indeed, so says all of pre-21st-century American history and all of Western Civilization from the beginning of Christendom to the modern day.”
Brantley Starr is another troubling nominee who was confirmed as a district judge in Texas. As the Deputy First Attorney General of Texas, he attacked reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, immigrant rights, and voting rights. He defended Texas’ ban on a medically-safe procedure for abortions performed later in pregnancy, Texas’ effort to defund Planned Parenthood, and Texas’ refusal to enforce a provision in the Affordable Care Act that prohibits federally funded health programs from discriminating against people because of their gender identity or their decision to seek an abortion. He also signed an opinion letter that concluded that county clerks may refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the Obergefell decision. He argued against the Obama Administration’s guidance permitting transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity and instead advocated to restrict the rights of transgender students. Starr also challenged the legality of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (“DAPA”) program and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program and defended the state’s prohibition to sanctuary cities. Starr also defended several voting rights restrictions, including a photo ID law and discriminatory redistricting plans.
As if their records are not bad enough, these three nominees also refused to say during their Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Brown v. Board was correctly decided, the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared racial segregation unconstitutional. And these are just a few of the nominees were confirmed before August recess.
Now that the Senate is back in session, we are expecting another deluge of confirmations. In addition to the six remaining judicial nominees from August, the Senate is expected to start the confirmation process for more problematic nominees. The docket includes former Department of Education Acting Attorney General, Steven Menashi, whose fingerprints are all over the recent rollbacks to the Title IX protections for students and anti-abortion advocate Sarah Pitlyk.
We must continue to fight this disgraceful confirmation process and stop Trump and McConnell from remaking our federal judiciary with extremists who are determined to roll back our fundamental rights for decades to come.