As President Biden struggles through the roughest patch of his presidency yet -- with his poll numbers in the doldrums and the cornerstone of his Build Back Better legislation in peril -- he can look back at one unalloyed success in his first year. The Senate has confirmed a record number of his nominees to the federal judiciary -- the most of any president at this stage in 40 years -- and at a time when that achievement matters more than ever. In its final days in session for the year, the Senate confirmed 10 district judges, giving Biden a total of 40 confirmations, a tie with Ronald Reagan's record.
By comparison, the Senate confirmed 18 circuit and district court judges in President Donald Trump's first year in office, and 12 in President Barack Obama's first year. Biden's achievement is especially important at a time when partisanship in the judiciary is nearly as pervasive as it is in the political branches. Republicans learned this lesson before Democrats did. When Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, was Senate majority leader during the Trump years, he put judicial confirmations at the top of his agenda. Thanks to McConnell, the Senate confirmed 54 appellate judges during Trump's one term, just one fewer than Obama appointed in his two terms.