No change for SCOTUS, Appeals Court, Cabinet and senior nominees, “[b]ut for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours.”
Mitch McConnell has been a bad boy (in the eyes of Democrats) according to my email inbox:
PFAW Statement on McConnell’s Threatened Rules Change: A Naked Power Grab Based on Lies and Distortions
WASHINGTON — In response to Mitch McConnell’s threat to break the Senate’s rules yet again in order to expedite GOP efforts to confirm as many of Donald Trump’s nominees as possible, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:
“There’s literally no one in the world with less credibility to accuse Democrats of obstructing the confirmation process than Mitch McConnell. His latest effort to break the Senate’s rules is a naked power grab based on lies and distortions. By attempting to speed up Republicans’ confirmation machine, Senator McConnell is trying to ensure that nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench receive as little scrutiny as possible. That’s not because of Democratic obstruction—the Senate has confirmed almost the same number of district court nominees for Donald Trump as it did for President Obama, and far more circuit court nominees. It’s because time and again these nominees have been shown to be embarrassingly unfit. But Senator McConnell’s answer isn’t to find better nominees; it’s just to make sure there’s less transparency for the entire process.
“Judicial nominees, if confirmed, serve for life. And several of the nominees awaiting votes have frighteningly extreme records when it comes to opposing reproductive freedom, attacking the rights of LGBTQ people, undermining voting rights, and enabling torture. Rushing these nominees through the process would be profoundly irresponsible.” …
So what’s all the hysteria about?
McConnell is finally doing what has been threatened for over a year, to reduce floor “debate” time to get around Democrat obstruction where they invoke 30 hours of debate even for non-controversial non-debatable nominees. That drags out the process interminably.
McConnell explained the problem in a Politico Op-Ed, Time to Stop the Democrats’ Obstruction:
It took six months of partisan delays — and several railroad accidents — before Democrats let the Senate confirm a federal railroad administrator, even though none of them actually voted against the nominee in the end.
It’s been 354 days and counting in Senate purgatory for the president’s nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Two-hundred eighty-seven days and counting for the under secretary of state for management. Noncontroversial lower court nominees have languished for weeks and weeks — for no discernible reason — before they, too, were confirmed unanimously. These are just a few examples of the historic obstruction Senate Democrats have visited upon President Trump’s nominees for two years and counting.
Since January 2017, for the first time in memory, a minority has exploited procedure to systematically obstruct a president from staffing up his administration. This new, across-the-board obstruction is unfair to the president and, more importantly, to the American people. Left unchecked, it is guaranteed to create an unsustainable precedent that would see every future presidency of either party obstructed in the same mindless way.
The Senate needs to restore normalcy. And this week, we will vote to do just that….
… in President Trump’s first two years? We had to hold a stunning 128 cloture votes to advance nominations. Our Democratic colleagues made the Senate jump over five times as many hurdles as in the equivalent periods in the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations combined….
The all-encompassing, systematic nature of this obstruction is not part of the Senate’s important tradition of minority rights. It is a new departure from that tradition.
Today I took the first step under regular order towards ending systematic obstruction on nominees and getting the Senate back to its normal pattern for handling presidential nominations.https://t.co/bFJ8DSLKZy
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 28, 2019
Here is McConnell’s statement, made on the floor of the Senate, in part:
“So today, I am filing cloture on a resolution that takes that bipartisan effort as its blueprint. This resolution from Senator Blunt and Senator Lankford would implement very similar steps and make them a permanent part of the Senate going forward. The Supreme Court, circuit courts, cabinet-level executive positions, and certain independent boards and commissions would not change.
“But for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours. This would keep the floor moving. It would facilitate more efficient consent agreements. And most importantly, it would allow the administration — finally, two years into its tenure — to staff numerous important positions that remain unfilled, with nominees who have been languishing.
“This resolution has come up through regular order, through the Rules Committee. And next week, we will vote on it. It deserves the same kind of bipartisan vote that Sen. Schumer and Sen. Reid’s proposal received back during the Obama Administration. I understand that many of my Democratic colleagues have indicated they would be all for this reform as long as it doesn’t go into effect until 2021, when they obviously hope someone else might be in the White House. But they’re reluctant to support it now.
“Give me a break. That is unfair on its face. My Democratic colleagues were more than happy to support a similar proposal in 2013 under President Obama. They whisper in our ears privately that they’d support it now if it took effect in 2021. But they can’t support it now, especially under these unprecedented circumstances, simply because we have a Republican president. So look, fair is fair. Members of this body should only support reforms that they would be ready to support in the minority as they are in the majority. Put another way, if my side is in the minority two years from now, I don’t think this will be unfair – it will not disadvantage us in the wake of a new Democratic president. This is a change the institution needs, a change the institution made already basically with a two-year experiment when President Obama was in office. This is a reform that every member should embrace — when their party controls the White House and when it does not control the White House.
This should help speed along the process, particularly for judicial nominees. There remain many empty seats to fill, and Republicans want as many as possible filled prior to the 2020 election, just in case.
Here are the numbers on vacancies from Carrie Severino as of March 25, 2019:
Current and known future vacancies: 167
Courts of Appeals: 10
District/Specialty Courts*: 157
Pending nominees for current and known future vacancies: 66
Courts of Appeals: 6
District/Specialty Courts*: 60