Trump already has his legacy as he remakes federal judiciary
WASHINGTON - After three years in office, President Donald Trump has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November's election.
Trump nominees make up 1 in 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. And this past week, as the House voted to impeach the president, the Republican-led Senate confirmed another 13 district court judges.
In total, Trump has installed 187 judges to the federal bench.
Trump's mark on the judiciary is already having far-reaching effects on legislation and liberal priorities. Just last week, the 5th Circuit struck down a core provision of the Affordable Care Act. One of the two appellate judges who ruled against the landmark law was a Trump appointee.
The Supreme Court - where two of the nine justices are conservatives selected by Trump - could eventually hear that case.
The 13 circuit courts are the second most powerful in the nation, serving as a last stop for appeals on lower court rulings, unless the case is taken up by the Supreme Court. So far, Trump has appointed 50 judges to circuit court benches. Comparatively, by this point in President Barack Obama's first term, he had confirmed 25. At the end of his eight years, he had appointed 55 circuit judges.
Trump's appointments have flipped three circuit courts to majority GOP-appointed judges, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. The president has also selected younger conservatives for these lifetime appointments, ensuring his impact is felt for many years.
The executor of this aggressive push is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is almost singularly focused on reshaping the federal judiciary, twice ramming through Senate rule changes to speed up confirmations over Democrats' objections.
"Leave no vacancy behind" is his mantra, McConnell has stated publicly. With a 53-to-47 Senate majority, he has been able to fill openings at breakneck speed.
That philosophy did not seem to apply in 2016, when McConnell refused to allow Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Obama's choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a confirmation hearing, let alone a vote.
McConnell insisted on waiting until after the 2016 election, a gamble that paid off when Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump appointed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch for that seat.
McConnell has repeatedly described blocking Garland as one of his greatest achievements.
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