President Trump and his administration are now putting pressure on Senate Republicans to get tough with Democratic efforts to delay the White House agenda. This is reigniting talk about the need for rules reform among GOP on Capitol Hill.
In fact, leaders on both sides of the aisle are in discussions about bipartisan changes to Senate rules to speed up the president’s judicial and executive branch nominees. If this process fails, the Republicans are not ruling out unilateral action.
The Trump administration’s patience with the backlog of nominees for the Senate to pass is wearing thin. Vice President Pence made this clear in a private meeting with the Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday, according to lawmakers who attended the discussion.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short accused Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of “weaponizing” the rules to keep executive and judicial branch positions vacant.
He promised that Trump would begin to speak out aggressively in response to what he called “historic obstruction.”
“I think that perhaps I’m a warm-up act for him making a larger foray into this,” Short told reporters. Short said that Trump would “make his case to the American people that the objection has gotten ridiculous.”
Schumer said that the backlog was the administration’s fault, along with Senate Republicans.
“This administration has been historically slow in submitting nominations and has withdrawn more nominees in the first year than any of the past four administrations,” said the Schumer aide.
The Democratic aide also noted there are currently 145 nominees awaiting action from the Republican-controlled committee.
Trump has withdrawn over 20 nominees and hasn’t submitted nominations for key State Department posts such as the ambassadorships for Cuba, Egypt, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Sweden.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is spearheading an effort to shorten the nomination process.
“We’re desperately behind on judges and noms,” Lankford said. “We’ve had a cloture vote 80 times. That’s more than the last four presidents combined.”
A Republican aide said Lankford “has had some positive private conversations about this with Democrats, many of who realize that this trend is really, really bad.”
The use of the nuclear option, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) used last year to eliminate the Democrats’ power to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, wouldn’t happen until the next Congress, most likely.
A single GOP defection would kill any attempt to change Senate precedent through a ruling of the chair, which needs to be sustained by a majority vote.
Democrats argue that Republicans slow-walked Obama’s nominees once they gained control of the Senate. GOP leadership in the Senate forced cloture votes on 168 of Obama’s nominees in 2015 and 2016, even though 62 of those nominees were later confirmed unanimously or by voice vote.
Democrats also argue that McConnell broke Senate tradition under Obama by holding up his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, for ten months until Trump took office.
So, you know what they say about paybacks…
Credit: The Hill