If Republicans win control of the Senate next week, as many expect, they will gain a powerful weapon to reshape President Barack Obama's legacy in his final two years: the authority to block his nominations.
Under a Democratic-led Senate, Obama has enjoyed remarkable success in confirming his executive appointees and remaking the federal courts in his image.
A recent New Yorker essay by legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin fleshed out Obama's contribution to the United States judiciary, which spans two Supreme Court justices, 53 appeals court judges and 223 trial court judges, all with lifetime tenure. Today 9 of 13 appeals courts, which have the last word on a vast majority of legal issues, have a Democratic majority; before he took office Republicans controlled 10 of 13.
"It's been absolutely huge," conservative legal scholar and Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett said of Obama's impact on the courts. "We've noticed patterns of voting with respect to certain kinds of legislation that gets upheld. There are certain executive branch practices that get upheld that would not have been upheld before."
Even Obama's executive branch picks have mostly been confirmed, though many have faced delays due to Republican filibusters and stalling tactics.
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