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Conservative groups to launch push for Trump judicial nominees

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

A collection of conservative activist groups are launching a well-funded effort today designed to push back against perceived Democratic obstruction of President Trump's judicial nominees, Axios has learned.

What's planned: Judicial Crisis Network is spending $500,000 on a digital ad buy with a campaign-style ad to back the campaign, along with a grassroots push — the agenda includes targeting town halls hosted by Democratic members of Congress — by Tea Party Patriots, Concerned Veterans for America, Susan B. Anthony List, and Concerned Women for America.

Why it matters: Installing conservative-minded judges in federal courts is a movement priority, especially with Republicans struggling to pass legislation through Congress.

Their perspective: From Carrie Severino, the JCN's chief counsel and policy director: "Democrats are abusing Senate rules to delay and obstruct President Trump's extraordinary judicial nominees because they want to keep liberal activist judges in control of our courts. Because of their gridlock, there are now far more judicial vacancies than there were when President Trump took office, and he began with a record number. There are almost 140 open seats on the federal bench waiting to be filled, with many more piling up."

At issue: The biggest point of contention for conservatives is that Democrats are allowing appointments to proceed by their default rules in the Senate, which sucks up valuable floor time by requiring 30 hours of debate for each nominee — even when Democrats ultimately plan to approve the nominee. Republicans did the same thing to Obama nominees in 2013, with Sen. John Cornyn even telling the NYT that the GOP "became pretty good at it."

Worth keeping an eye on: Republicans have experienced the brunt of grassroots backlash over health reform so far in 2017. It'll be interesting to see if the right can similarly harness local support, especially given growing discontent with Trump's tactics amongst the GOP mainstream.