OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The Republican-controlled Senate just made history in a big way — and there’s pretty much nothing Democrats can do about it.
This week, the Senate confirmed the appointment of President Donald Trump’s 200th judicial nominee, a historical accomplishment that will have an impact for decades.
Judge Cory Wilson was confirmed by the Senate to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 52 to 48.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that there are now no vacancies anywhere on the federal appellate bench:
“Once we confirm Judge Wilson today, this Senate will have confirmed 200 of President Trump’s nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. And following number 200, when we depart this chamber today, there will not be a single circuit-court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years,” McConnell said.
“As I’ve said many times, our work with the administration to renew our federal courts is not a partisan or political victory. It is a victory for the rule of law and for the Constitution itself,” he added.
As noted by CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, this marks the first time in nearly 40 years that there are currently no circuit court vacancies anywhere.
NEW: Senate votes 52 to 48 to confirm Cory Wilson to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is the 200th Trump judicial nominee confirmed and means there are currently no circuit court vacancy anywhere for the first time in at least 40 years.
— Ed O'Keefe (@edokeefe) June 24, 2020
Democrats opposed Wilson’s appointment, suggesting that he was a racist because he supported voter ID laws.
“Judge Wilson has been an ardent supporter of restrictive voting measures, including voter ID laws that disproportionately harm minority voters, and he has shown a pattern of dismissing legitimate concerns from voting rights groups,” they wrote in a letter quoted by Politico. They also called Wilson’s nomination a “slap in the face to Black Americans.”
Trump has lauded the speed with which his administration, backed by McConnell, has been able to nominate and confirm conservative justices, including two to the Supreme Court.
“My motto for the year is ‘Leave no vacancy behind,'” McConnell said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show in February. “That includes district courts as well. So, we’re a long way from being finished with doing court confirmations this year.”
On the circuit courts, Trump has appointed 52 judges during his first three and a half years in the White House.
By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed 55 during his two terms in office.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Wilson’s appointment “a historic milestone” for the Republican Party.
“We were only able to reach this historic achievement because of President Trump’s commitment to selecting strong, qualified, conservative judicial nominees,” Graham said in a statement. “Our work is not yet finished. Under my chairmanship, I will continue to confirm highly qualified, conservative judges at all levels of the federal courts.”
Trump’s judicial appointments also include two Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
And he may have the opportunity to replace at least one more justice if he secures a second term in office.
That’s certainly a historic accomplishment, and the Republican-controlled Senate is reshaping the federal courts across the country for decades to come.