Senate Democrats are holding up President Trump’s nominees to a degree never witnessed before in my lifetime, and probably not in all of American history. In the first two years of the last six presidencies combined, going all the way back to President Carter, the Senate subjected nominees to a total of only 24 cloture votes. So far, less than half way through President Trump’s second year, there have been 90 cloture votes.
Majority Leader McConnell put flesh on these numbers:
It’s not just the high-profile nominations. Scores of unobjectionable choices for all kinds of posts have languished on the Senate calendar.
It took months and months – and several deadly accidents – to persuade Senate Democrats to stop obstructing a fully-qualified nominee to lead the Federal Railroad Administration. Or take the example of district court judges. With only one exception, we’ve had to file cloture on every single district court nominee. It doesn’t matter if every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee supports the nominee. It doesn’t matter if every Democrat in the whole Senate supports the nominee. No matter what, our colleagues across the aisle are insisting on obstruction — for no reason.
No reason other than the Democrats’ desire to prevent the Trump administration from governing.
What is to be done?
Sen. James Lankford has presented a resolution that would cut post-cloture debate for most executive branch nominees from 30 hours to just eight. It passed the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on a 10-9 straight party line vote.
Unfortunately, it seems destined to fail in the Senate. It would require a “nuclear option” to make this rule change. Sen. Susan Collins is highly unlikely to buy in. With Sen. John McCain absent (and who knows how he would vote if present), the votes almost certainly will not be there.
But never fear, Amy Klobuchar is on the case. She is working with Sen. Roy Blunt to find a bipartisan solution to the gridlock. Says Klobuchar, “It’s a big job, but I think we’re up for it.”
In the unlikely event that Klobuchar ever tires of politics, she should turn to stand-up comedy.
The real solution is for Majority Leader McConnell to start making the Senate work a full week, including weekends. If Susan Collins and the Democrats want 30 hours of debate for district court judges and sub-cabinet nominees, then make the time for it. Don’t let Senators work only three days. Don’t let vulnerable Democratic Senators go home to campaign.
When McConnell threatened to keep the Senate in session a few weeks ago, the Democrats caved and six nominees were confirmed. But the Majority Leader has not repeated this tactic. Thus, confirmation continues at a snail’s pace.
It’s fine for McConnell to rail against Democratic obstruction, but unless he takes measures to combat it that are within his power, he will become a part of the problem.