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Data: Federal Judicial CenterU.S. Courts; Note: Trump data is through Dec. 1, 2002; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump’s astounding record of judicial appointments will not only reshape the judiciary for a generation, but it will likely deny President-elect Joe Biden the chance to put much of his own stamp on the courts.

By the numbers: Trump came into office with 17 vacancies on federal circuit courts of appeals, plus an open Supreme Court seat. Ultimately, he filled three Supreme Court seats and appointed 54 circuit-court judges in just one term — the Senate confined the 54th, a replacement for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the 7th Circuit, just this week. President Obama got a grand total of 55 during his two terms.

  • The appointments will be the outgoing president's most lasting, substantive legacy.

What’s next: There are now only two appellate vacancies awaiting the president-elect, and he will have no realistic chance of changing the ideological balance on the Supreme Court, currently split with a 6-3 conservative majority.

  • There are 47 vacancies in federal district courts. If Democrats control the Senate, Biden may be able to fill many of those openings.
  • But those judges’ rulings would then be appealed to circuit courts now stocked with Trump appointees, and from there to the Supreme Court, with its expanded conservative majority.

Between the lines: If Republicans end up controlling the Senate, Biden can forget about filling almost any important judgeships, especially with progressive or polarizing nominees. But his judicial legacy will be constrained even if Democrats take the Senate.

  • Without a backlog of vacancies to begin with, Biden will only be able to fill openings that arise while he’s president.
  • That means he’ll probably be largely limited to replacing liberal judges — and in a 50-50 Senate, he’ll have to make safe picks to avoid losing the support of moderate Democrats.

Go deeper

How Dems could notch tech wins even with a dysfunctional Senate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech policy may be one area where Democrats will be able to smash through the logjam forming around their razor-thin Senate margin and actually pass meaningful legislation.

The big picture: Many Democrats want to hit Big Tech with new antitrust laws, updates to Section 230, privacy legislation and more. The party may be united enough on such issues — and able to peel off GOP support — to pass laws around them even as the Senate's 50-50 party-line split and shifting priorities imperil other legislative possibilities.

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.

Democrats open to user fees for infrastructure deal

President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.