Senate Republicans are moving to push through more of President Trump’s conservative nominees during a lame duck session and in his final days at the White House — extending Trump’s legacy on the government for years, particularly in the judiciary, sources told Politico.
Much to the dismay of Democrats, the Senate confirmations overseen by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could frustrate the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden.
While Trump has yet to concede the election to Biden, the Senate GOP is moving to confirm Trump appointees to the Federal Elections Commission, Federal Reserve Board and the federal judiciary.
Democrats are crying foul — but as long as the Republicans control the Senate, they can’t stop the confirmations or actions Trump takes.
“It is a mockery of the norms and the democratic process. And certainly defies the will of the American people who just voted out of office the president who is selecting these nominees,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Politico.
“It will leave in place some totally unqualified nominees with views antithetical to the will of the American people.”
Not that every confirmation will stick.
Earlier this week, Senate Republicans failed to put Judy Shelton onto the Federal Reserve Board because of senators who were absent recovering from the coronavirus.
The Senate GOP plans to confirm Christopher Waller, another Trump pick for the Federal Reserve.
McConnell is known for his canny maneuvering to get conservative nominees on the bench, in some cases lifetime appointments.
But even the confirmation of appointees to agencies or commission slots will have consequences for Biden. Shelton’s term would extend to 2024, Waller’s would last until 2030.
“Certainly on the judiciary it’s a continuation of the same sort of priority. But there are other appointments to vacancies that are for terms that would be there not just until the next president is inaugurated, but for several years,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“There is a desire to continue our work and to have as big an impact as we can.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said there’s nothing evil about the GOP strategy.
“Obviously whatever’s left [of] unfinished business we want to get it done before the end of the year and the start of the new Congress,” Thune said.
“It’s really a culmination of a lot of work that we’ve been doing for a long time.”
Republicans could remain a thorn in Biden’s side, if they remain in charge of the Senate when the new Congress convenes next year. The GOP could block his appointments as well as stymie his legislative agenda.
During the November elections, Republicans secured 50 seats to 48 for Democrats. Two races are to be decided in Georgia run-off elections on Jan. 5. Republicans are favored to win, but if Democrats do, the Senate would split 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote on any impasse.
In the meantime, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is moving to advance a slew of judgeships including Thomas Kirsch to take a seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to replace Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Democrats are protesting the committee moving forward on new judicial nominees after Trump’s defeat, but Graham dismissed their concerns.
The Senate recently confirmed four district court judges.
Elsewhere, the Senate Energy Committee advanced two nominees this week for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.. If confirmed, the picks would lock in three Republican appointees on the five-member commission through mid-2021.
Senate Republicans also could expedite Trump’s nominee to the Federal Communications Commission, which would hinder Biden’s ability to form a Democratic majority on the five-member panel.
Trump has personally tweaked the Senate Republicans to move on his FCC appointment, Commerce Department staffer Nathan Simington.
Trump sees Simington’s selection as crucial to reining social media giants he claims have been biased against him and conservatives, particularly after the firestorm over Twitter and Facebook blocking the distribution of the Post’s expose on Hunter Biden’s dealing with foreign firms.
“When you have openings in agencies that are usually Republican you probably want to fill it while he’s president. But this is not new ground we’re plowing,” Graham told Politico.
Trump this week passed along a number of nominees for confirmation to the Senate.
He announced the selection of Brian Brooks to a five-year term as Comptroller of the Currency. He currently serves in acting capacity.