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Trump judicial nominees getting committee approval this week might be his last

Pick to replace Amy Coney Barrett on 7th Circuit is one of them

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during a Senate vote in the Capitol on Dec. 2.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during a Senate vote in the Capitol on Dec. 2. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham Tuesday said five judicial nominees on the committee’s Thursday agenda will likely be the final ones from President Donald Trump reported to the Senate floor.

“We got the markup Thursday, and that’s it as far as I know,” the South Carolina Republican said Tuesday.

The agenda includes consideration of a measure that would regulate how social media companies moderate content on their platforms, and the judicial nominations, which include Thomas L. Kirsch II for the on the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit.

Graham and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s push to confirm judges nominated to lifetime appointments by a president whose party has lost the White House hasn’t occurred, with one exception, in more than a century.

The 7th Circuit Court seat was vacated by now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed by the Senate in October after a truncated nomination process to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The committee will also consider two judges nominated to serve as U.S. district court judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee — Charles Edward Atchley, Jr., and Katherine A. Crytzer — and one judge in the District of South Carolina, Joseph Dawson III. Those are all for lifetime appointments. The other nominee on the agenda is Zachary N. Somers for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. That would be for a 15-year appointment term.

The 7th Circuit spot is one of three open appeals court seats.

Another 7th Circuit spot opened on Nov. 30, when Joel M. Flaum, the court’s former chief judge, took senior status. No one has been named as a replacement for Flaum’s seat.

Another vacancy, on the 1st Circuit, came open in October after the death of Judge Juan R. Torruella.

In late November, the White House nominated U.S. District Court Judge Raúl M. Arias-Marxuach to replace Torruella.

Arias-Marxuach was tapped by President Donald Trump and confirmed, 95-3, by the Senate in May of 2019 to be U.S. district judge for the District of Puerto Rico.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an October appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that he had hoped to fill both the 7th and 1st appeals court vacancies before the 116th Congress ends. He told reporters Tuesday he expects to focus some of the chamber’s time on nominees to both the judiciary and other government positions in the waning days of the lame duck.

But Graham said Tuesday the committee may fall short and run out of time in the lame duck before the 1st Circuit spot can be filled.

“I don’t see that working,” he said.

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