Senate control guarantees Democrats many more justices

Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer promised that the Senate would continue its momentum on the judges.

“Senate Democrats are committed to restoring balance to the federal justice system with professionally and personally diverse judges,” he said in a statement. “With two more years of a Democratic majority in the Senate, we will build on our historic pace of judicial confirmations and ensure the federal bench better reflects America’s diversity.”

Biden’s pace of court confirmation has been broadly comparable to that of former President Donald Trump. So far, Democrats have confirmed 84 justices, have 57 pending judicial nominees and 117 advertised vacancies. Now the party won’t have to scramble to confirm more Justice Biden in the next session of lame ducks.

Democrats head into December’s Senate runoff in Georgia, no longer needing to win to claim a majority. But having 51 seats — instead of two more years of a 50-50 Senate — would make a significant difference. This even split of the past two years has required Democrats to maintain perfect attendance in order to pass their party signing priorities and secure confirmation of Biden’s nominees.

The threadbare 50-50 majority also meant committees had an even number of Democrats and Republicans, requiring GOP attendance to advance on nominees and forcing Democrats to take additional procedural action in the Senate if a committee blocked a nomination. If the senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) retains its seat in Georgia, Democrats will be able to remove nominees from the committee with a majority.

The extra seat would also bolster Democrats’ majority heading into 2024, where they face a tougher map.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) was relieved that the party was assured of remaining in Democratic hands, with or without Georgia.

“That means we can confirm the judges and other Biden nominees. It means we can continue to work on the climate,” he said. “That means at least one room will be run by adults.”

Democratic control of the Senate will also mean fewer oversight hearings of the Biden administration, which Senate Republicans have pledged to do ahead of the election. And if Republicans retake the House, the Senate can unilaterally block the party’s online messaging bills.

A divided government, of course, will also likely mean more legislative gridlock.

Next year, the Democratic majority will also play an important role in determining how the party handles the next session of the lame duck, particularly when it comes to reaching an agreement with Republicans on a program of broader expenditure for the end of the year. The pressure to confirm as many nominees as possible will diminish. And a push by more Democratic senators to tackle the debt ceiling is now looming.

In a Editorial from the New York Times, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called for raising the debt ceiling when the Senate returns to “stop Republicans from holding our economy hostage next year.” She added, “Democrats should be aggressive in putting Republicans on the defensive, emphasizing why they’re blocking much-needed initiatives to help Americans.”

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