When the Democrats say, “He’s not my president,” they aren’t kidding. Most Democrats still refuse to accept the result of the 2016 election, and their party consistently refuses to extend to President Trump the routine cooperation that makes our democracy function. The most blatant example of this is the Democratic minority in the Senate. The Democrats under Chuck Schumer have abused longstanding Senate rules and courtesies in a way that we have never seen before.
On Friday Marc Short, the administration’s Director of Legislative Affairs, joined Sarah Sanders at a White House press briefing. He laid out the facts regarding the Democrats’ unprecedented obstructionism, beginning with a description of the nomination process:
The Senate, obviously, has the constitutional responsibility for advice and consent. So what that looks like in real life is the President selects a nominee, they then undergo an entire FBI background check, they work with the Office of Government Ethics to de-conflict financial issues — and that’s a process that takes a good amount of time, a good amount of resources.
Only then, after cleared through an FBI background check and the Office of Government Ethics, is a nominee submitted to the United States Senate. When they get to the Senate, they go through several additional evaluations, including meetings with staff, meetings with the members on both sides of the aisle. The nominee then undergoes a hearing and the committee then votes on the nominee to get out of that committee.
At that point, the nominee moves to the Senate floor for full confirmation. Traditionally, the Senate routinely confirms the administration’s nominees once out of committee. It is there to respect the will of the American people and the election for an administration to fill out its roles under a new President. Instead, what Senator Schumer has done is to require cloture votes to essentially slow down the process and to obstruct.
How bad has the Democrats’ obstruction been? It has violated all historical norms:
At this point, in the past four administrations combined — the last four administrations — the Senate had conducted 17 cloture votes combined; cloture vote, in essence, being a filibuster on a nominee. Seventeen cloture votes in the last four administrations combined, at this point. Today, the Senate has had 79 cloture votes in the first 14 months of our administration. Seventeen, over the last four administrations, versus seventy-nine in the first 14 months of our administration. That is roughly five times the number of the last four administrations combined.
What’s the point? If a cloture vote is demanded (i.e., the Democrats filibuster), under Senate rules there must be 30 hours of debate. Which means that the Senate grinds to a halt:
Senator Schumer is essentially weaponizing a Senate procedure and demanding cloture votes on our nominees that he even eventually supports. Eleven of the President’s nominees have been approved without a single dissenting vote, yet still forced to go through a 30-hours of debate to essentially slow down the Senate calendar simply for the purpose of obstruction. Even Senate Democrats have begun to call this out and to say it is getting to the point of ridiculous.
At this rate, the United States Senate would take eleven and a half years to confirm our nominees. Eleven and a half years to confirm our nominees.
So, contrary to all precedent, the Democrats are determined to prevent President Trump from ever staffing his administration. Short offered more on the numbers. There can be no doubt that what Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are doing is a brand new phenomenon:
In the first entire term of the George H.W. Bush administration, his entire four years, he faced one cloture vote. In the entire four years of the Clinton administration, he faces 10 cloture votes. Under the George W. Bush administration, the entire first term, he faced four cloture votes. Barack Obama faced 17 in his first entire four years. We have faced 79 in our first 14 months. That adds up to 32 combined in the entire first four years of those administrations, relative to 79 in our first less than a year and a half.
Short also cited specific examples of important executive branch positions that are vacant because Chuck Schumer has abused Senate rules to slow-walk all nominations. If you were really naive, you might think that the reporters attending the press briefing would be shocked by the numbers Short laid out and would respond with sympathetic questions.
Just kidding. We all know the political sympathies of the White House press corps. So here are the questions that reporters asked in response to the facts that Marc Short laid out:
Q Thanks a lot, Marc. Thanks for coming out. You mentioned the plight of your nominee at the State Department for the Arms Control position, and you mentioned the need for having that person for the upcoming negotiations with North Korea, yet you still do not have a nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea. Why is that? When will you have that nominee? And is that position also important for your efforts?
This one I think is particularly funny, from a reporter who apparently wasn’t listening:
Q Marc, thanks. You know well what goes on on the Hill. This is part of the toxic nature that’s been going on for several years. I mean, the Democrats pushing back because of Republicans. What are you doing to ease or water down that toxicity? What can you do?
And secondly, explain to those who don’t understand how it is that a minority party — when you control both the Congress — you know, both the House and the Senate — how you’re unable to get it through, because that is one of the big stumbling blocks for people to understand why you’re complaining.
More from another Democratic Party reporter, not to be redundant:
Q Do you see it as a reflection of, for example, when Obama was in office and the Republicans said they were going to make it their prime concern not to pass any legislation that Obama favored. Don’t you see that as part of the problem?
Q And the Republicans don’t bear any of the blame?
Q Marc, has the President had any personal conversations with Senator Schumer about this “obstruction,” in your words — specifically, as he’s been having conversations about infrastructure and other matters. Has he has Senate Democrats over here? And why haven’t we heard more from him talking about this?
Q Marc, is there the possibility that the President could offer something — make a deal where not everyone gets what they want? But has he offered anything to Senator Schumer in exchange for helping get some of these nominations through?
Marc Short’s answer to this one is worth reproducing:
MR. SHORT: I guess it’s hard for me to understand what it is that we should be offering when the American people elect a President — elect a new administration to come in — and the expectation is they should be able to fill out their administration.
The Senate has an advise-and-consent role but why should we be offering making a deal on something that should be the normal process of the United States Senate? For us, that would be kind of hard to understand.
The Democratic Party reporters continue:
Q I mean, in his conversations on DACA, has there been any suggestion — you know, we would make some concessions on DACA if you help get some of nominations through?
Q On DACA, is there room for a smaller deal? Are you working a smaller deal now — one that doesn’t have all four pillars but that might be part of the omnibus?
Q Just to be clear, Marc, do the challenges of getting personnel cleared through the U.S. Congress prevent the President from changing the makeup of his Cabinet right now if he wanted to?
After this there were a number of generally-hostile questions about foreign and domestic policy, some relating to changes in the Trump administration. The briefing ended on this ignominious note:
Ms. SANDERS: I’ll take one last question. Jeff.
Q So we are about to enter the 15th month of this administration. Why is it that there is still a need for change inside the President’s Cabinet or among his circle of advisors?
As though there had been no personnel changes in prior administrations! Did this reporter just fall off the turnip truck?
MS. SANDERS: Look, as we’ve said many times before, you want the right people for the right time, and as policy priorities change, that means that sometimes you’re going to have personnel change. That’s not different for this administration as it has been in any other administration, and we’re going to continue to add new staff regularly.
I’ll take one last question.
Q Does the President enjoy the drama?
There you have it. If there is a reporter in Washington concerned about the Democrats’ unprecedented effort to block the executive branch from operating, he didn’t attend Friday’s press briefing.