Senate confirms 15 more judges, wrapping up a GOP priority

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks after the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed 15 more judges late Thursday and left town until after next month's midterm elections, as Republicans chalked up more wins days after Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Clearing the judicial nominees provided a signature walk-off for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has focused on reshaping the judiciary with more conservative jurists.

With the House already gone, the next time Congress conducts business will be after Election Day, Nov. 6. When lawmakers return the following week, the nation will know whether Republicans were able to retain their control of both chambers for next year.

While many of the judges were approved with bipartisan support, almost half were confirmed on mostly party-line votes. Democratic opponents and their allies swiftly objected to some of the nominees, in large part over views aligned with stricter abortion access.

"Make no mistake, today was yet another step in the GOP's takeover of our courts, stacking the deck against women and families at every level," Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said after the votes. She said the back-to-back votes coming so soon after Kavanaugh's confirmation were especially painful.

Singled out for opposition were David Porter, who was confirmed as a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania over the objection of that state's Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, and Mark Norris, confirmed as a district court judge for the Western district of Tennessee.

Republicans have seen a bump in polling since Kavanaugh' confirmation. McConnell has marveled at the way the Supreme Court fight is animating Republican voters — who, polls showed, had been less enthusiastic before Kavanaugh advanced.

Underscoring liberal anger over Trump's conservative judicial nominees, People for the American Way criticized them as "ideological extremists and narrow minded elitists."

The group also chided Democrats for not delaying the votes, saying, "Allowing these confirmations to be rushed through as senators head out of town does a disservice to our democracy and the rule of law."

Among the handful of senators who missed the day's votes were Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida, who face tough re-election races, and Florida Republican Marco Rubio. Florida was battered this week by Hurricane Michael.

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