Senator Mitch McConnell

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Yesterday, the Senate Republicans tried to force through a rule change that slashes the time for Senators to discuss and consider a nominee for federal district judge or a sub-cabinet post from 30 hours to just 2 hours. If passed, Senators will have only 2 hours to debate whether to confirm district court judicial nominees for lifetime positions. In offering the resolution, Senators Lankford and Blunt claim that the decrease in post-cloture debate time would allow for nominations to “function appropriately” and stop “obstruction for the sake of obstruction.” McConnell, in an op-ed this week, even makes the preposterous assertion that Democrats are inappropriately slowing the confirmation process- despite the fact that Trump’s district court nominees have been confirmed at roughly the same rate as Obama’s and Trump’s circuit court nominees are being confirmed twice as fast.

Don’t be fooled by these claims.

The ability for Senators to properly vet a nominee’s record is of utmost importance. And that’s especially true now when Trump has been consistently nominating individuals to the federal courts who would undermine our civil rights and protections. The Senate Republicans are doing their part and trying to jam through Trump’s nominees.

The Senate has a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on judicial nominations and this entails having sufficient debate time to carefully consider nominees. In the past, this time has resulted in the withdrawal of support for problematic nominees, such as Ryan Bounds and Thomas Farr. Their nominations were withdrawn during the final hours of the floor consideration after key Senators indicated they would not support these candidates because of their racially-charged writings and anti-voting rights records. Giving Senators enough time to review and debate the extensive records of these extreme nominees seems like a no-brainer. But the Senate Republicans’ actions suggest they are afraid that more unqualified candidates will be pulled if the Senate has enough time to consider the nominees.

The Senate Republicans are invoking this rule change to confirm problematic district court nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk and Wendy Vitter. Kacsmaryk opposes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and has criticized Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. Vitter spread fake science about abortion care and birth control, including making absurd accusations against Planned Parenthood. At a minimum, their records raise questions about whether we can trust these individuals to truly put aside their personal beliefs and enforce landmark Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade.

The Senate Republicans failed to change the rules yesterday. But rather than follow the rules, they are trying to break the rules. Now, they are attempting to drop the required vote threshold from 60 to 50, abandoning the tradition of forming a bipartisan agreement at the beginning of the session on the amount of time for considering nominees. The Senate Republicans have been relentless at chipping away all of the rules that help ensure we have a fair and impartial judiciary. We see this rule change for what it really is: a ploy for President Trump and the Senate Republicans to pack our courts with as many judges as they can with less transparency and scrutiny to help advance their extreme ideological agenda.

The courts are the ultimate protector of our fundamental rights. We cannot allow the judiciary to be overrun with extreme judges who are determined to roll back our hard-fought legal rights and protections. If you care about reproductive rights, if you care about marriage equality, then you must care about judges and you must help to block this rule change.

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