Senate expected to vote today on first Biden judicial appointments

Welcome to the Monday, June 7, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Senate set to confirm first federal judges appointed by President Biden
  2. COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week
  3. Noah Valenstein resigns as secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection

Senate set to confirm first federal judges appointed by President Biden

The Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Julien Xavier Neals and Regina Rodriguez to federal district court judgeships in New Jersey and Colorado, respectively. Both were part of President Joe Biden’s (D) initial group of 10 judicial nominations announced in March. Xavier Neals and Rodriguez were nominated to federal judgeships by President Barack Obama (D), and both nominations were returned when the 114th Congress adjourned in January 2017.

Today is 138 days since Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20. Below is a breakdown of when the Senate confirmed each president’s first Article III federal judge: 

Since 1980, Reagan made the most appointments during his first year with 41. Obama made the fewest with 13. The Senate confirmed 19 Article III federal judges that Trump appointed during his first year in office.

Since taking office, Biden has nominated 19 individuals to federal judgeships, including six judges on federal appeals courts, 13 on federal district courts, and one Washington, D.C., superior justice. There are currently 81 vacancies among Article III federal judges. Three of Biden’s nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate, four are awaiting a committee vote, and 12 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The chart below details the number of Article III judicial appointments during each president’s first term as of June 1 of their first year and December 31 of their fourth year. 


COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week 

Here are the latest tidbits in our series highlighting coronavirus-related policy changes and events that happened this time last year.

  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Defense announced on June 9 that it was lifting travel restrictions on installations in 38 states, Washington D.C., and five countries (Bahrain, Belgium, Germany, the U.K., and Japan). Travel restrictions remained in place in 12 states.
  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ended the state’s stay-at-home order on June 9, which was first issued on March 21. 
  • Travel restrictions
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced on June 11 that he was extending the quarantine requirement for out-of-state and returning travelers through July 31. He first issued the two-week quarantine requirement on March 17.
  • Election changes:
    • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed legislation on June 12 reducing the witness signature requirement on completed absentee ballots from two to one.

Noah Valenstein resigns as secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein resigned on June 4. He had led the agency since former Gov. Rick Scott (R) appointed him to that office on May 23, 2017. The secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection heads the agency responsible for protecting the state’s natural resources, enforcing environmental laws, and overseeing Florida’s state parks and trails system.

Florida’s Secretary of Environmental Protection is an example of a natural resources commissioner, which is an office that exists in 49 states. Five states—Arkansas, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington—publicly elect a natural resources commissioner. Arkansas, South Dakota, and New Mexico divide these duties between two offices; a nonpartisan office appointed by the governor and a partisan office filled via election. In all other states, the office is nonpartisan and appointed.