April 08, 2019
Every new president of the United States has to
fill a large number of jobs in his administration. More than 1,000 of them
require confirmation by the Senate.
The rules say that any senator can hold up consideration of a nominee, so getting through them all requires some cooperation from the other party. This cooperation has been in short supply lately.
In fact, Democrats in the Senate have been waging an unprecedented blockade on President Trump’s nominees.
This week, Republicans took a big step to break the blockade and help President Trump fill the jobs the law requires him to fill. No president can give the direction they are elected to give without people who share that president’s view of what the government can do and should do.
In this president’s first two years in office, Senate Democrats used a rule that requires up to 30 hours of debate be added to the process. The nominee has had a background check, been questioned in public by the appropriate committee, been voted out of committee and is ready to be confirmed and start work. Senate Democrats insisted on that extra debate 10 times more often than it was used in President Obama’s first two years and 30 times more than President Bush’s.
It’s not like these are unqualified or controversial people. Almost half of the nominees who were used to burn up time actually got the votes of 60 or more senators — so they had substantial bipartisan support. A third of them got 70 or more votes, and 17 percent got 90 or more votes.
And it’s not like the time was used for debate. Of the 30 hours that couldn’t be used for any other legislative work, the average debate time used this year is less than one hour. That includes the time we spent debating important jobs like the attorney general, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and judges with lifetime appointments.
Last week, we confirmed Bridget Bade to be a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. We used less than one minute of the 30 possible hours talking about her nomination on the floor and, let me repeat, no other Senate work could be done during the remaining time.
So Sen. James Lankford and I proposed a change to speed up how we handle these nominees. It would still allow up to 30 hours to debate the nominations of Supreme Court justices, appeals court judges and cabinet secretaries. Our plan would trim back the debate time on district court judges and other lower-level nominees to two hours — time that senators aren’t using today.
On Wednesday, the Senate made that change.
The hours we save will help us confirm far more of President Trump’s judges and other nominees. They also will allow us to take up important legislation for the American people.
The other thing to keep in mind is that this change isn’t anything new. In 2013, when Democrats ran things, they wanted to change the rules to speed up confirmations of President Obama’s nominees.
There was actually bipartisan agreement on the change back then, but it only applied for two years.
What we offered was to make the change permanent, so every president — Republican or Democrat — could get the benefit of this streamlined process. Suddenly senators on the other side of the aisle weren’t so interested in being more efficient.
There are 34 Democrats in the Senate today who voted in favor of changing the rules for President Obama. In the end, not a single one of them supported giving other presidents the same courtesy.
You don’t have to be an expert on the rules of debate in the Senate to understand when something isn’t fair, and when one side is trying to rig the system.
Under the new rules we’ve put in place, we can have a legitimate discussion about the president’s nominees, trim back the unnecessary delays and allow highly qualified men and women to serve the American people.
Then we can use the rest of our time to do the other important work that people expect.
To read the article online, click here.