By Sen. John Thune
The Republican-led Senate has been hard at work. We passed the most comprehensive, pro-growth reforms to the U.S. tax code in a generation, which has already allowed South Dakota families and businesses to keep more of their hard-earned money. We gave our men and women in uniform the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. We reformed G.I. Bill benefits and ensured the VA is being held more accountable. We slashed burdensome government red tape, imposed sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea, and passed the longest State Children’s Health Insurance Program extension in history.
In addition to writing and passing bills, the Senate has a unique constitutional responsibility to confirm (or choose not to confirm) the president’s nominees to serve in the executive and judicial branches. While these nomination votes don’t always make the front page of the newspaper or lead the evening news, they are critical to our democracy and can have a lasting effect on our way of life for years down the road.
The Senate has already confirmed 51 of the president’s federal judicial nominees. Among them, a record-setting 24 circuit court judges. Once these individuals are confirmed, not only do they serve a lifetime appointment, but circuit court judges, in particular, serve as the final stop before a case potentially heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s why the confirmation process, where senators vet and decide whether or not to provide their consent, is so important.
Whether someone has been nominated to serve on a district court, circuit court, or the Supreme Court, I have a similar standard that I use to determine whether or not the nominee will receive my vote: Is he or she well-qualified, and does he or she understand that the proper role of a judge is to call balls and strikes, not legislate from the bench? While those aren’t the only things I take into consideration, I lean heavily on the need for those qualifications.
While we’ve already set records with the pace at which we’ve confirmed circuit court judges, we’re determined to continue filling empty seats (or those that will soon be vacated). In order to achieve that goal, the Senate will spend most of August in Washington – time that’s usually spent outside of the Capital Beltway – to confirm more judges and approve additional legislation. This process could be far more efficient if my Democrat colleagues weren’t deliberately trying to slow things down, but we’ll continue to fulfill our role and help put good judges on the bench nonetheless.
Speaking of supporting well-qualified, mainstream judges who are willing defend the Constitution and rule based on the law, not his own personal opinions, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee to serve on the Supreme Court.
Voting on Supreme Court nominees is one of the most important votes a senator can take. I’ve had that opportunity several times over the years, including most recently with Justice Neil Gorsuch. After meeting Judge Kavanaugh, who I believe is cut from the same cloth as Justice Gorsuch, and hearing more about his judicial philosophy, I’m looking forward to supporting his nomination this fall.