For many months, we (along with many other conservatives) have been urging Senate Republicans to reduce the number of hours permitted to debate nominees. This step is necessary because Senate Democrats have used the 30 hours now permitted to stall nominees. The result is an unacceptable backlog of qualified, confirmable nominees. Consequently, judgeships and key administration jobs remain vacant.
Now it finally looks like Majority McConnell will pull the trigger. CNN reports:
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday that he now has the votes to invoke the so-called nuclear option to significantly cut back the debate time on nominations, according to a person with direct knowledge of the remarks.
This person also said that McConnell, barring an unforeseen deal with Democrats, plans to move to change Senate rules at some point after next week’s congressional recess.
The sooner, the better.
The contemplated reduction would be from 30 hours of debate to two, according to CNN. It would apply to almost all judicial and executive branch nominees, but not to nominees for high-level positions such as Cabinet officials, federal appellate court judges, and the members of the Supreme Court.
In my opinion, federal court of appeals nominees shouldn’t be debated for 30 hours, either. Half that amount of time should be sufficient.
McConnell won’t be breaking new ground if he effectuates the rule change — technically a “reinterpretation” of the rules — he now wants. The Obama administration benefited from shortened debate limits when Democrats held the Senate majority. Republicans supported the limits. But the change in limits conveniently expired when the Democrats lost control of the Senate and the 30 hour rule was reinstated.
It only takes a simple majority to “reinterpret” the rule so as to shorten these debates. But unlike Democrats, Republicans tend to respect Senate tradition and deliberation. Thus, with no Democratic support for the change, it hasn’t been easy, apparently, for McConnell to come up with the votes.
However, the unprecedented obstruction of nominees carried out by Democrats finally seems to have moved the needle. Thus, McConnell is in a position to get the rule change.
As I said, the sooner, the better.