Biden’s judicial nominations through August compared to his predecessors

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. President Biden has appointed the most federal judges through Aug. 1 of a president’s first year
  2. Texas House lacks quorum as second special session begins
  3. Louisiana reinstates indoor face-covering requirement

President Biden has appointed the most federal judges through Aug. 1 of a president’s first year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed eight Article III federal judges through Aug. 1 of his first year in office. This is the largest number of Article III judicial appointments at this point in a president’s first term since President Richard Nixon (R). 

The Senate has confirmed three Appeals Court and five District Court judges that Biden nominated. It had confirmed five of President Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term. Presidents have appointed an average of three judges through Aug. 1 of their first year in office.

The president appoints, and the Senate must confirm, all Article III federal judges. They include judges on the Supreme Court, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

Biden’s first successful federal judicial appointment was Julien Neals to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on June 8. Biden announced the first federal judicial nominations of his presidency on March 30. 

Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D) did not have their first judicial appointment until August of their first terms, and both were to the Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor on Aug. 6, 2009, after Obama nominated her on June 1 of that year. The Senate confirmed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Aug. 3, 1993, after Clinton nominated her on June 22. Neither Obama nor Clinton appointed any appeals or district court judges until September of their first year.

There are currently 80 Article III federal judiciary vacancies. Biden has 24 pending nominations for those positions before the U.S. Senate.

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Texas House lacks quorum as second special session begins 

The Texas House of Representatives began a new 30-day special legislative session Saturday—on Aug. 7—without the minimum number of members required to conduct official business, known as a quorum. The House has lacked a quorum since July 12.

According to CBS News, State Rep. Eddie Lucio (D), who has returned to Texas, said he expected enough members of the Democratic caucus to return to Austin within a week so that a quorum can be re-established, while at least 26 of the 50 Democrats that left in July issued a statement saying they would remain in Washington, D.C. 

Here’s a quick timeline of what has happened with this story to catch you up:

  • May 30: All 67 members of the Democratic House caucus left the chamber during consideration of a package of election-related legislation. This prevented the House from passing the legislation ahead of the regular session’s conclusion that day.
  • June 21: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed the part of the state budget that funds the legislature, including salaries for legislators, staff, and legislative agencies.
  • June 22: Abbott calls a special session of the legislature.
  • July 8: The legislature convenes its first special session.
  • July 12: Fifty-one of 67 Democratic state representatives leave the state and travel to Washington D.C., ahead of expected votes on election-related legislation.
  • July 15: Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) announced he had removed Joseph Moody (D) as speaker pro tem, who performs the duties of the speaker when the speaker is absent. According to the Texas Tribune, “Moody’s appointment to the position was seen as an olive branch by Republicans,” and he was “one of Phelan’s top allies in the Democratic Party.”
  • Aug. 7: The legislature convenes a second 30-day special session, one day after the first session ended on Aug. 6.

Supporters say the voting-related legislation includes updates that will improve election integrity. Opponents say the bills amount to voter suppression.

The rules of the Texas House of Representatives require that two-thirds of the 150 legislators—100 members—must be present to establish a quorum, or the minimum number of members required to conduct official business. According to the rules, “Until a quorum appears, should the roll call fail to show one present, no business shall be transacted, except to compel the attendance of absent members or to adjourn. 

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Louisiana reinstates indoor face-covering requirement

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed an executive order on Aug. 2 reinstating the state’s indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Louisiana is the only state so far that has reinstated a statewide face-covering order after previously allowing such an order to expire. 

Edwards said the order would be in place until Sept. 1 and could be extended beyond that date. The requirement came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its masking guidance, recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks while indoors in parts of the country with substantial or high transmission. 

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced a mask mandate on July 27 in counties with “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19. In those counties, vaccinated and unvaccinated people would be required to wear masks indoors, also due to the CDC’s new guidance.

Five states currently have statewide mask orders for unvaccinated individuals, and three have such orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All eight states have Democratic governors.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide mask requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Thirty-two states —16 with Republican governors and 16 with Democratic governors—have allowed statewide orders to expire. 

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