Posted by 11 April 2019
Confirming President Trump’s nominees has been a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Last week he engineered a step that speeds up Senate confirmation, and this week the Senate moved quickly to approve numerous nominees put forward by the president.
Senate rules have traditionally given senators numerous ways to block or delay consideration of legislation or nominees. In recent years, however, when the president’s party controls the Senate, the majority leader has taken steps to limit the minority’s power when he perceives it as being obstructionist. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid thought that Republicans were blocking too many of President Obama’s nominees. He ended the judicial filibuster for lower court nominees, allowing them to be confirmed with a majority vote instead of a supermajority.
Since President Trump has been elected, Senator Mitch McConnell has eliminated the judicial filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Last week he also eliminated the 30-hour rule for consideration of nominees, limiting debate time to 2 hours. Senate Democrats had been using that rule to delay many of President Trump’s nominees, even though they could not ultimately stop them.
While it takes a supermajority to change Senate rules, it only takes a majority to change how the Senate interprets these rules. Both Senators Reid and McConnell have used this “nuclear option” to make their rule changes. By a vote of 48-51, senators on April 3 voted against sustaining the ruling of the parliamentarian who said that debate over nominees must last 30 hours.
The Senate has moved 9 nominees under this expedited consideration process:
- David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior, 56-41
- Steven Morales, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, 56-41
- Holly Brady, District Judge for the Northern District of Indiana, 56-42
- John Abizaid, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 92-7
- Cheryl Marie Stanton, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, 53-45
- Patrick Wyrick, Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, 53-47
- Daniel Domenico, Judge for the District of Colorado, 57-42
- Mark Calabria, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, 52-44
- Kalman Altman, Judge for the Southern District of Florida, 66-33
Do you support Majority Leader McConnell’s move to speed up consideration of presidential nominees? Do you think that Senate Democrats are right to use 30 hours of debate on President Trump’s nominees?