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Senate Wraps Up for August, Breaking Logjam on Judges on Way Out of Town

Many senators will be back in D.C. for services honoring John McCain on Friday

A plane takes off from Reagan National Airport at sunrise. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A plane takes off from Reagan National Airport at sunrise. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators were able to smell the jet fumes Tuesday, breaking a logjam on judicial nominees as they ended the workweek after most of them spent less than 24 hours in the Capitol.

The Senate finished up work for the week, and the month, on Tuesday afternoon after confirming seven of President Donald Trump’s picks to be federal district judges.

Under an agreement announced on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the seven judicial nominations were confirmed Tuesday, with another eight set to be voted on shortly after Labor Day.

McConnell had filed cloture to cut off debate on 17 nominations, mainly judges, last week. And he committed to keep senators around as he continued to prioritize confirming key nominations through the end of the August work period.

Attendance was at times uneven during the August session. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for instance, missed all the votes this week while out on the campaign trail. There was even at least one day where Democrats actually outnumbered Republicans.

Many of the seven judicial nominees confirmed Tuesday and the eight in the queue for next week are not particularly partisan or controversial. One of Tuesday’s nominees confirmed was the result of a bipartisan process set up by Pennsylvania Sens. Patrick J. Toomey and Bob Casey.

“I am pleased that the Senate has finally confirmed Judge Susan Paradise Baxter for the vacant seat on the Western District. This seat, which is the only federal seat in Erie, has been vacant for over five years,” said Casey. “I am confident that Judge Baxter will serve the Commonwealth honorably, as she has for over two decades. Judge Baxter has served as a federal Magistrate Judge for the Western District since 1995 and will bring this wealth of experience in the federal system to her new seat.”

The judicial confirmation votes, many of which came by voice vote, followed a 69-26 vote to confirm Richard Clarida for a four-year term as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and, in a second action, confirmed him by voice vote to fill an unexpired Fed board term that ends Jan. 31, 2022.

Clarida will become the fourth member of the board, leaving it with three vacancies. The three-member current board matches the smallest board in the central bank’s history.

The Fed’s vice chairman post has been vacant since October 2017, when Stanley Fischer resigned.

Reaching the agreement on Tuesday afternoon allows senators to depart quickly for events in their home states during the week, as well as to make the trip to Phoenix if they should so desire for services in remembrance of the late Sen. John McCain.

Many senators are expected back in the nation’s capital for Friday and the start of the Labor Day weekend. McCain will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday, with a public viewing following a private ceremony at 11 a.m.

Many senators and other dignitaries are also expected to attend the formal funeral service at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday. McCain will be buried in a private ceremony at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Sunday. 

Doug Sword contributed to this report.

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