In a rambling speech billed as a curtain raiser for his $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, President Trump veered off topic numerous times, at one point mocking his predecessor for leaving him a high number of court vacancies.
“You know when I got in, we had over 100 federal judges that weren’t appointed,” Trump told a small crowd Thursday at an Ohio factory. “I don’t know why Obama left that. It was like a big beautiful present to all of us. Why the hell did he leave that? Maybe he got complacent.”
Trump did indeed inherit 103 judicial vacancies from President Obama, though the explanation has nothing to do with complacency. When Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate in 2015, they made sure to bring the process of confirming judges appointed by Obama to a near halt.
As the Washington Post reported, 25 of Obama’s court nominees had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but were not given final Senate votes before the chamber broke for the holidays at the end of 2016.
This was part of a strategy concocted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to thwart Obama’s agenda, which he also employed to keep a Supreme Court seat open. The nomination of Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland, expired without a vote, and Trump got to appoint Neal Gorsuch instead.
“I’ve never said this before, it was like the gift from heaven. We were left judges. They’re the ones that judge on your disputes,” Trump said. “They judge on what’s fair on the environment and what’s not fair, where they’re going to take your farms and factories away and where they’re not. … Amazing. It was the gift. Thank you very much, President Obama, we all appreciate it.”