The Senate is sitting on 78 of President Trump’s nominees who have already been passed out of committee but can’t get a floor vote. Chuck Schumer and his loyal band of Democrats accomplish this obstruction by objecting to unanimous consent that a nomination be taken up. This triggers a motion for cloture which brings with it 30 hours of floor debate.
The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial denouncing the Democrats’ practice, notes that cloture votes used to be almost unheard of for nominations other than judges. At this point in the past four presidencies combined, only 15 executive-branch nominees had been confirmed after cloture. In the current Congress, Democrats have already invoked cloture on more than 50 Trump nominees.
Consequently, 43 percent of Trump’s nominees await confirmation, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And there have been 102 fewer confirmations so far than in even the slowest recent administration.
Why the Schumer stall? It’s not because Trump’s nominees are unqualified or too extreme. Last week, the Dems blocked Richard Grenell, who was nominated in September to be ambassador to Germany, a rather important post. Grenell is the longest-serving U.S. spokesman at the United Nations. He’s openly gay and has the backing of some liberal groups.
The Democrats are blocking Grenell and so many others as part of their “resistance” to Trump. It’s that simple. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “their goal is simply to slow the formation of a GOP government. . . .”
What to do? Try to change the rules requiring 30 hours of floor debate, a move that should have been made months ago. Sen. James Lankford has proposed that the debate time be shortened to eight hours. This, as the Journal notes, was the standard in 2013-14 after Republicans, then in the minority, agreed to a request by Harry Reid, then the Majority Leader.
It takes 60 votes to change this rule, so some Democratic support is needed. If it’s not forthcoming, and I don’t expect it to be at this juncture, then the Wall Street Journal editors urge Republicans to keep the Senate operating five days a week and even weekends until the deck has been cleared of nominees.
With so many Senate Democrats up for reelection in tough states, and therefore needing to campaign back home, this measure might cause some Senate Democrats to reconsider whether it’s worth the price to delay further the filling out of the Trump administration.
Right now, the Democrats are paying no price for their obstruction. This has to change.