President Donald Trump’s 200th judicial nominee was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday, marking a significant milestone in a presidency that has tilted the federal judiciary in a conservative direction for decades to come.
With the confirmation of Judge Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump has successfully appointed 53 appeals court judges, 143 district court judges, two US Court of International Trade judges and two Supreme Court justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.
By comparison, former President Barack Obama successfully appointed 334 federal judges during his two terms, according to the US Courts. Former President George W. Bush successfully appointed 340 judges during his eight years in office, while former President Bill Clinton put 387 judges on the bench during his two terms.
Trump, with the help of a determined McConnell and Senate GOP majority, has significantly reshaped the judiciary during his first term, and the 200th appointment milestone illustrates how lasting his legacy will be, as federal judges serve lifetime appointments and many of Trump’s picks have been young judges who can serve for many years.
“Judicial confirmations may be President Trump’s most important legacy,” said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “They will shape the nation’s laws on abortion, LGBT rights, voting rights and many other issues long after Trump leaves office.”
The 200 confirmations will also be a permanent part of McConnell’s legacy. The Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election this year, played a key role in changing Senate rules to both speed up the process of confirming judicial nominees eliminating the 60-vote threshold for minority filibusters.
In a 52-48 vote on Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Wilson and filled the last currently available appeals court post. Democrats complained about Wilson’s views on voting rights and other issues, but could not stop his confirmation since a simple majority vote is all that’s required for approval.
McConnell gloated about the accomplishment before the vote, saying: “Once we confirm Judge Wilson today, this Senate will have confirmed 200 of President Trump’s nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench.”
“And following number 200, when we depart this chamber today, there will not be a single circuit-court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years,” McConnell said.
Earlier this month, the Senate also voted to confirm Justin Walker, a young judge close to McConnell, to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, enraging Democrats who said he’s not qualified. The DC appeals court is considered a breeding ground for future Supreme Court justices, and was the court Kavanaugh served on before Trump appointed him to the Supreme Court.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.