Progressive Groups Urge Biden To Fill Every Single Court Vacancy This Year

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More than two dozen national progressive groups are urging President Joe Biden and Senate Democratic leaders to fill every single judicial vacancy this year, before Republicans potentially take control of the Senate in November and make it much harder to confirm Biden’s lifetime federal judges.

“As the number of announced judicial vacancies has risen to 119, we urge you to redouble your efforts in the final seven months of this Congress,” reads a June 21 letter from organizations including Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America. “At the current pace, dozens of these vacancies will remain unfilled at the end of the year, and we urge you to do whatever it takes to fill them all.”

The courts are on track to have about 60 unfilled vacancies by the end of this Congress, the groups estimate.

Filling every court vacancy this year would be quite a feat. Biden, with the help of Senate Democrats, has already been confirming judges at a fast clip ― faster than decades of past presidents. His judicial picks have also been incredibly diverse, both in terms of demographics and professional backgrounds.

The progressive groups acknowledge that Biden’s pace of moving judges “is quite impressive historically speaking.” But they also warn this could all change if Democrats lose their razor-thin majority in the Senate in November’s midterm elections.

“We are painfully aware that, should the Republican Party take control of the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, progress on balancing the federal courts will come to a grinding halt,” they said. “Senate Minority Leader McConnell has repeatedly made plain his plans to obstruct should he have the opportunity to become majority leader in January — just as he obstructed President Obama’s judicial nominees, leading to the fewest judicial confirmations since 1952.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Here’s a copy of their letter, which was sent to Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The groups sent their letter just days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, something that would not have happened if Republicans hadn’t played hardball with confirming Supreme Court nominees in recent years. Between taking the unprecedented step of blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, and then breaking from Senate tradition to rush Amy Coney Barrett onto the court in late 2020, just before Biden won the election, Republicans arguably nabbed two court seats that should have been filled by Democratic presidents.

These are the kinds of bad faith GOP tactics that are driving progressive groups to call on Democrats to do more now on judges.

Chris Kang, chief counsel for Demand Justice and a former Obama White House aide who oversaw judicial nominations, separately issued a new memo laying out specific steps that Democrats can take to avoid leaving judicial vacancies to the next Congress. He called on Durbin to hold more Judiciary Committee hearings, including during Senate recesses, and to put more judicial nominees on each panel when there is a hearing.

Here’s a copy of Demand Justice’s memo:

A spokesman for Schumer did not respond to a request for comment.

A Durbin spokesperson did not specifically comment on the groups’ calls for filling every court vacancy this year, but instead highlighted that Biden and Senate Democrats have confirmed 69 lifetime federal judges in this Congress, more than any president by this point in their terms since John F. Kennedy.

“Seventeen judicial nominees are on the Executive Calendar and three are awaiting a discharge vote. And more nominees will continue to move through the Committee quickly — as has been the case since Chair Durbin took the gavel,” said Durbin’s spokesperson. “When the Senate returns, Chair Durbin would like to see these pending nominees confirmed swiftly, and will continue to work with the Leader to find appropriate floor time.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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