Earlier in the month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the Democrats on notice that they had two options. They could stop obstructing judicial nominees and executive branch appointees voluntarily or he’d make them stop. From my post Senate Democrats Panic As Mitch McConnell Prepares A Mini-Nuclear Option To Speed Judges:
While the White House has done its job by sending large numbers of highly qualified conservatives to the Senate for confirmation, the stumbling block has been the Senate. Even though Harry (no, really, it was an exercise band that busted my face, not the guy in the assless chaps) Reed did the GOP a huge favor by eliminating the ability of the minority to filibuster judicial nominees–which McConnell used to make the same rule apply to Supreme Court Justices–a disciplined minority bent on obstruction can make the process slow as each nominee is subject to thirty hours of debate. For instance, Eric Miller’s nomination was reported out of committee on February 9, he wasn’t voted on until February 26. Chad Readler (6th Circuit) was reported out on February 7 and will be voted on today [ed. March 6].
This is what Politico had to say:
The longtime GOP leader accused Democrats Tuesday of “mindless obstruction” and said he hopes to overhaul the rules under the regular procedure, which requires 67 votes. But McConnell also suggested he’s ready to move forward even if Democrats do not support the change: “In the absence of [bipartisanship], it’s still my desire to try to achieve that.”
Republicans believe they have the required 50 votes for the nuclear option but are hoping to achieve complete caucus unity, which might prove difficult. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) could be seen trying to sway Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on the Senate floor on Tuesday during a vote.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said McConnell is likely to move soon, but won’t call up the rules change on its own. Instead, he’s likely to set up votes on a nomination and then move to change the rules when and if Democrats resist.
The Democrats refused to budge. They insisted that they would only agree if McConnell reinstated the so-called “blue slip” (as opposed to the pink ones favored by Adam Schiff) which would give Democrat senators an effective veto over Trump’s judicial nominees. And now McConnell has done what he said he would do. You have to give them credit and there were GOP majority leaders within recently memory who would have gone along with this nonsense. This is McConnell’s statement on the floor of the Senate.
“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.
This is a very limited first step in expediting nominations. It doesn’t affect circuit court nominees or cabinet officers. It does cover district judges and other appointees that require Senate confirmation.
The resolution needs 60 votes to pass. If the Democrats don’t go along, McConnell intends to use the “nuclear option” and change the rules by a majority vote only.
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