Senate Confirms Biden’s 40th Judge, Tying a Reagan-Era Record

The rapid speed of confirmations this year came despite an evenly divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. But like Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, his judicial agenda is also facing challenges of its own.

Democrats have overwhelmingly racked up judicial victories in states represented by two Democratic senators. They are facing stronger headwinds in states represented by at least one Republican senator. Tennessee Republicans have already raised objections to Mr. Biden’s pick for an influential appeals court there, the administration’s first judicial nominee from a state represented by two Republican senators.

Beyond Republican-led efforts to slow-walk such nominees, Mr. Biden is also facing limited appellate vacancies from Republican appointees — which means he has little room to reshape the ideological balance of the courts. Of the appellate nominees Mr. Biden has named, only three of 10 would replace Republican appointees.

At the moment, the vacancies Mr. Biden is facing in the appeals courts are those created by Democratic appointees, said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies the federal courts. “So far, the percentage of Republican appointees on the court of appeals is almost unchanged from when Biden took office,” he said.

The greatest threat the administration’s effort may face, however, is the risk of losing control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Mr. Wheeler noted that Mr. Trump had nominated 54 circuit court judges over four years with a Republican-controlled Senate.

“If Biden loses the Senate, it’s not going to be talking about ‘How many appointees,’” Mr. Wheeler said. “It’s going to be talking about whether there’s going to be any at all.”

In total, Mr. Biden has sent 71 judicial nominees to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate also early Saturday confirmed on a voice vote 41 ambassadors, including Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, as U.S. ambassador to Japan. That vote came about as part of a deal with Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who had blocked the nominees in his push for a vote on sanctions over a Russian-backed gas pipeline. After Mr. Cruz finally won a promise for a vote on the sanctions, Mr. Schumer was able to push the nominees through.