The Wall Street Journal has an important editorial about what it calls the “Schumer blockade.” For a while, President Trump was slow in making executive branch appointments. But he has nearly caught up, and the problem now is Democratic obstructionism. As the Journal says:
The Trump Presidency is well into its seventh month but the Trump Administration still barely exists. Senate Democrats are abusing Senate rules to undermine the executive branch, and Republicans need to restore normal order.
President Trump got an inexcusably slow start making nominations, but in the past few weeks he’s been catching up to his predecessors. According to the Partnership for Public Service, as of June 28 Mr. Trump had nominated 178 appointees but the Senate had confirmed only 46. Barack Obama had 183 nominees confirmed by that date in his first term, and George W. Bush 130.
[T]he Senate has received 242 nominations but confirmed only 50 through June 30. Democrats are now the problem.
The Democrats’ obstructionism takes several forms:
Democratic obstruction against nominees is nearly total, most notably including a demand for cloture filings for every nominee—no matter how minor the position. This means a two-day waiting period and then another 30 hours of debate. The 30-hour rule means Mr. Trump might not be able to fill all of those 400 positions in four years. The cloture rule also allows the minority to halt other business during the 30-hour debate period, which helps slow the GOP policy and oversight agenda.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s troops are even invoking an obscure rule that prohibits committees from doing business more than two hours after the Senate opens for the day. Republicans have had to cancel briefings on national security and Russia electoral interference, as well as scrap a markup of two human-trafficking bills.
The Democrats’ abuse of the “blue slip” process has prevented President Trump from filling many judicial vacancies.
Democrats have also refused to return a single “blue slip” to the Judiciary Committee, which has the effect of blocking consideration of judicial nominees from their home states. Senators like Minnesota’s Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are holding hostage the eminently qualified Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for no reason other than politics.
This is a cynical abuse of power by my own two senators. Here, President Trump needs help. (As usual these days, the problem rests more with the GOP Congress than with the Trump administration.) The Republican leadership should change Senate rules to whatever degree is necessary to allow the people’s business to be conducted. The Democrats’ unprecedented obstructionism cannot be allowed to bring the machinery of government to a halt.
As for the blue-slip tradition, it was designed to facilitate advice and consent by allowing Senators to use their home-state knowledge about local judges to better inform the White House. But it is a courtesy, not a rule, and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley can ignore Senators who are using their blue slips as ideological vetoes of qualified candidates.
Which is exactly what is going on, to the everlasting shame of senators like the hyper-partisan Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
The Democrats are playing hardball. As so often seems to be the case, the Republicans are playing golf. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and other Senate Republicans need to stand up to the bullying Democrats and allow the executive and judicial branches to be staffed.