During a hearing on her nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Jennifer Sung hit a speed bump.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana, one of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s more acerbic questioners, had taken issue with a letter Ms. Sung co-signed in 2018 describing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as “morally bankrupt.”
In a year in which pandemic recovery, voting rights, and other legislative priorities have languished, Senate Democrats and the Biden administration have been ruthlessly efficient in trying to stock the federal judiciary with progressive judges likely to serve for decades.
Their blueprint for this finely tuned confirmation machine? The Republican Party, and in particular, the Trump administration.
The speed with which President Trump was able to appoint judges “caused a lot of alarm for Democratic supporters,” says Dr. Johnson. “There definitely has been some learning.”
The Trump administration had a team within the White House Counsel’s office focused on judicial nominations. They also worked closely with the conservative Federalist Society and senior Senate Republicans like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairmen Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham.
Former President Trump and senior Senate Republicans “set up one of the most efficient assembly lines ever for judicial nominees,” says Mike Davis, a former aide to Senator Grassley and founder of the Article III Project, a group formed during the Trump administration to promote conservative judicial picks.
“President Biden is now benefiting from that,” he adds.
Noting specifically the hiring of Ron Klain as chief of staff and Paige Herwig, a former Democratic staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to the White House Counsel’s office, he says, the Biden administration “has assembled a very competent and experienced team to very quickly fill these judicial nominations.”
“I think Ron and Paige understood Democrats did a very poor job of filling judicial vacancies in the past,” says Mr. Davis.