This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed five judicial nominees to U.S. District Courts. The Senate has now confirmed 102 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—63 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
The confirmed nominees are:
- J. Campbell Barker, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
- Andrew Brasher, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
- Raúl Arias-Marxuach, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
- Joshua Wolson, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Rodolfo Ruiz, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Barker and Brasher were confirmed along party lines, with all Republicans voting “yea” and all Democrats voting “nay.” Wolson was confirmed 65-33 with 11 Democrats and independent Angus King voting in favor. Arias-Marxuach and Ruiz were confirmed on bipartisan votes of 95-3 and 90-8, respectively.
The confirmed nominees were part of the first 10 nominees to be confirmed to a U.S. District Court under a new precedent the Senate established. On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a change to chamber precedent lowering the maximum time allowed for debate on executive nominees to posts below the Cabinet level and on nominees to district court judgeships from 30 hours after invoking cloture to two.
The change was passed under a procedure which requires 51 votes rather than 60 that is often referred to as the nuclear option. It was the third use of the nuclear option in Senate history. In 2013, it was used to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to confirm presidential nominees, except those to the Supreme Court. In 2017, it was used to eliminate the 60-vote threshold required to confirm Supreme Court nominees.
President Donald Trump inherited 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination when he was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Across 890 federal judicial positions, there was an average of 141 vacancies a month from February 2017 to May 2019.