MSNBC Justice Reporter: Republicans Are Better at Reshaping Federal Courts Than Democrats

June 5, 2018

MSNBC justice correspondent Pete Williams said on Tuesday that Republicans are better at reshaping the federal courts than Democrats

"The Republicans, it turns out, are just better at this than the Democrats," Williams said. "They have more of a stable of potential nominees they're ready to move on quickly."

At the beginning of the segment, MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle detailed how President Donald Trump is reshaping judicial branch with his numerous nominees being confirmed by the Senate.

"According to the U.S. courts, President Trump has appointed 38 judges to the federal bench. The majority of them serve on the court of appeals. And there are 80 nominees who are awaiting confirmation by Congress," Ruhle said. "According to the government, there are 148 vacancies throughout the court of appeals, district courts, international trade court, and federal claims court."

Williams said former President Barack Obama was slow to fill the vacancies, allowing Trump and Republicans to fill more seats.

"Secondly, you think about President Obama, surprisingly given his legal background, he was slow to get his nominees nominated at all," Williams said.

In 2013, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) pushed through a controversial rule change that weakened the filibuster in an effort to make it easier for the Obama administration to receive the approval of its nominees. The change reduced the threshold, from 60 votes to 51, executive and judicial nominees had to reach for confirmation.

Another reason Trump has been able to get so many of his judicial nominees confirmed is because Republicans in the Senate have made it a priority. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said confirming Trump's judicial picks is a top priority for him and the Senate.

"The second factor for Trump success is the Senate. They're moving rapidly. Judicial confirmations have become a priority on the floor under Mitch McConnell, moving ahead of legislation," Williams said. He added that Republicans are also ignoring the long-standing "blue slip" practice, which allowed a senator to object to a nominee from his or her state.

MSNBC host Ali Velshi asked Williams why Trump is moving faster than Obama on judicial nominations.

"Is Trump moving on this faster because he has more appointees available than Obama did, or was this just not a priority for the Obama administration? Or was it more difficult for the Obama administration to get these judges confirmed?" Velshi asked.

"Yes to all three," Williams answered. "The Republicans, because largely the Federalist Society, they're more disciplined about that."

"Remember when Barack Obama, in his first six years in office, he had a Democratic majority in the Senate. But the Republicans are just -- have just decided, as you say, this is a bigger deal and they're more disciplined about it and moving faster. They're just doing it more efficiently," Williams said.