Republican President Donald Trump's policy agenda has been moving at a snail's pace -- at least, it has for anything that hasn't involved him simply signing executive orders.
Still, there is one place he has been remarkably successful, and that is at stacking the courts with far right judicial nominees. Benches that were left empty for years thanks to GOP filibustering and partisanship are now being loaded with a line of judges hand-picked by conservative action groups, leading us to a permanent social conservative judiciary that could haunt the country for decades to come.
The President's earlier appointments -- especially his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch -- gave us a clear guideline of the pro-business, anti-civil liberties, anti-federalism type nominees we could expect from the White House, and that has continued unabated even into the most recently confirmed candidates.
Take Joan Larsen: she will now serve on the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, despite opposition from 27 LGBTQ advocacy organizations who brought up Larson's troubling record on gay rights issues, including calling the Supreme Court's strike down of the Texas ban on sodomy "revolutionary."
"Our federal judges should be fair and independent jurists, not ideological warriors who have passed a right-wing litmus test," Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told the Huffington Post in regards to Larson's confirmation.
Larson's confirmation came shortly after another far right judge -- Amy Coney Barrett -- was confirmed to sit on the 7th Circuit. Barrett was confirmed despite her beliefs that Roe v. Wade, the ruling that allowed abortion in each state in the US, was an "erroneous" decision.
Larson and Barrett are the latest nominees to be confirmed, and show the GOP's secondary agenda of doing whatever it takes to stack the benches for as long as they have federal control. Their hope? A new judiciary that will enshrine their views permanently as the President and Republican Congress make over the country in their social conservative image.
"As Americans see more and more evidence of the corruption and dishonesty at the heart of the Trump administration, Senator McConnell has set up a week of votes that will make clear whether or not Republicans are in lockstep with President Trump," People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker said in a statement after Barrett's confirmation.
"Today we saw that despite the latest revelations about the Trump campaign and despite the extremism of the nominee, Republicans are still eager to fall in line to help Donald Trump pack the courts. Again and again since January, we've seen independent courts stand up against Trump and his illegal, unconstitutional agenda. Yet when he asks Republican senators to support nominees who will rubberstamp his overreach, they rush to do so."
While the President is steamrolling through a new pack of federal judges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still concerned that this snowball rolling down the mountain isn't moving fast enough, and has suggested backing a new plan that would limit debate to do it.
"McConnell cited a proposal crafted by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) that would limit the minority's power to run out the clock after debate has been formally curtailed. Lankford began floating the idea in April as Democrats forced a procedural showdown over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch -- who occupies the seat Garland had been nominated to fill," reports Politico. "The Senate currently has 30 hours of floor time to discuss a nominee after cloture is invoked to limit debate, and Lankford's plan would limit that to 8 hours."
Parring debate down by 22 hours seems like a needless and desperate ploy from a party that already has the ability to confirm any nominee they want since judges can no longer be filibustered. But perhaps that's just what the GOP still needs in order to avoid exposing how very ideological -- and underqualified -- their partisan nominees are. For the second time, the American Bar Association declared a President Trump judicial nominee "unqualified to be a federal judge," a decision reached almost unanimously by their standing committee (one member abstained from voting).
There is little doubt that the GOP is pulling out all of the stops to remake the judiciary in their own party image, and that they will stop at nothing to do it, even if that means putting in unqualified judges, nominees who reject constitutional precedent, or limiting the ability to oppose nominations all together. It almost seems as if they are afraid they won't be in power for very long?
Then again, if they keep governing as they have in the first year of the Trump administration, they very well might not be.