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Senate confirms 200th federal judge under President Biden

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the 200th federal judge of President Joe Biden’s tenure, about a month earlier than when Donald Trump hit that mark in his term, though Trump still holds the edge when it comes to the most impactful confirmations — those to the Supreme Court and the country’s 13 appellate courts.

The march to 200 culminated with the confirmation of Angela Martinez as a district court judge in Arizona. The milestone reflects the importance that Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., placed on judicial confirmations after Trump put his enormous stamp on the federal judiciary with the confirmation of three Supreme Court justices.

“Reaching 200 judges is a major milestone,” Schumer said just before the 66-28 vote. “Simply put, our 200 judges comprise the most diverse slate of judicial nominations under any president in American history.”

The current pace of judicial confirmations for this White House came despite Biden, a Democrat, coming into office in 2021 with far fewer vacancies, particularly in the influential appellate courts, than Trump, a Republican, did in 2017.

“There is more work to do,” Biden said in a statement after the vote. “Going forward, I will continue my solemn responsibility of nominating individuals who have excelled in their professional careers, who reflect the communities they serve and who apply the law impartially and without favoritism.”

It’s unclear whether Biden can eclipse his predecessor’s 234 judges before the year ends, though.

Democrats have solidly backed the president’s judicial nominees, but there have been some cracks in that resolve in recent weeks. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would not support nominees who do not have some bipartisan support, and the two Democratic senators from Nevada are opposing a nominee who would become the nation’s first Muslim appellate court judge. They did so after some law enforcement groups came out against the nomination.

The White House is aware of the obstacles as they rush to surpass Trump’s accomplishment. It’s a high water mark that remains a point of pride for the former president and senior Republicans who made it happen, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Filling dozens of judicial vacancies requires time on the Senate floor calendar, which becomes more scarce as senators in the narrowly divided chamber shift into election-year campaign mode.

Of the more than 40 current judicial vacancies nationwide, half are in states with two Republican senators. That matters because for district court judges, home-state senators still can exercise virtual veto power over a White House’s nominations due to a long-standing Senate tradition.

White House officials say they have no illusions about the challenges they face but feel reaching 235 is possible. That doesn’t please Republicans.

“Unfortunately, they learned from our example about prioritizing lifetime appointments,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Meanwhile, liberal advocacy groups are thrilled with the results so far.

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