Senate Democrats plan to hold a hearing on some of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees during the Senate’s October recess as progressives fret about time running out to confirm judges should Republicans win control of the body in November’s midterm elections.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, in a statement Friday said the panel will proceed with an Oct. 12 hearing to consider some of Biden’s nominees even though the Senate is mostly not in session until after the midterms.
The hearing was originally scheduled when the Senate was set to be in session for two weeks in October. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday cleared the way for senators to go home and campaign by delaying votes until November 14.
Durbin said that despite Schumer’s decision, the committee’s hearing will go forward in order to continue with “the important work of processing the Biden administration’s outstanding judicial nominees.”
He said there was precedent for the move. In October 2018, the then Republican-led panel held two hearings during a recess.
The committee also held a hearing on now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination by Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2020 during a recess ahead of that year’s election. Her confirmation gave the court its 6-3 conservative supermajority.
“While it is my prerogative to set the Committee’s agenda – including its hearing calendar – I have endeavored to stay within the precedential bounds set by my predecessors,” Durbin said in a statement.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, in a statement said he strongly objected to holding a hearing, saying it “falls outside the norms of the committee.”
In one of the final votes before senators left Washington, the Senate on Thursday confirmed public defender Arianna Freeman to become the first Black woman on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Senate has approved 84 of Biden’s judicial nominees, most often women and people of color. Progressive groups have urged Democrats to confirm as many as possible to counter the near-record number of judges former Republican President Trump appointed during his tenure.
Chris Kang, the co-founder of the progressive legal advocacy organization Demand Justice, in a statement called on Durbin to “announce additional hearing dates to ensure all possible vacancies are filled and no Biden nominees are left behind.”
Three of Biden’s circuit court nominees have yet to receive a hearing. They are DeAndrea Benjamin for the 4th Circuit, Jabari Wamble for the 10th Circuit and Anthony Johnstone for the 9th Circuit.