It's going to be a happy new year for busloads of conservative judges: Donald Trump has 103 vacancies in the federal courts to fill when he becomes president, meaning he has the chance to build the foundations of a legacy immediately on issues including gun control and abortion, the Washington Post reports. That's nearly twice as many judicial appointments as Obama had to make initially, and Democrats say it is because of an "unprecedented" level of obstruction by the Senate, which almost entirely stopped confirming Obama nominees after the GOP regained control in 2015. The most important position Trump needs to fill is the Supreme Court vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia more than a year ago. Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing on Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, who will return to his old job next month.
The stalemate has left dozens of seats vacant so long that the nonpartisan Judicial Conference has declared them emergencies. "Republican tactics have been shameful and will forever leave a stain on the United States Senate," White House spokesman Eric Schultz tells the Post. "Republican congressional dysfunction has now metastasized to the third branch of government, and that is not a legacy to be proud of." Republicans say Democrats shouldn't complain because the 329 judicial appointments confirmed under Obama is more than the 326 under George W. Bush. Trump—whose older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a widely respected federal appeals judge—made replacing Scalia a central campaign issue and aides say that reshaping the judiciary with appointments in lower courts is also a priority. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)