When it comes to new judicial confirmations, we’ve got something of a good news, bad news scenario going on. The good news is that President Trump has been filling vacant seats on the bench at a blistering pace. This is largely due to a series of skillful maneuvers and negotiations by Cocaine Mitch and a slim GOP majority in the Senate.
The bad news is that even with all of the new judges taking their seats, there are still literally hundreds more awaiting confirmation. And it’s not just judges. There are a large number of executive branch positions waiting to be filled as well. Many of them didn’t make it onto the docket in 2018 and now have to start the process all over again. The reason for this the fact that Democrats are dragging their feet as much as possible and demanding a full 30 hours of allowable debate after cloture, even in cases where no serious objections have been raised and the candidate will clearly be confirmed anyway. Fortunately, since this comes down to a question of Senate rules rather than federal law, there is a way to speed up the process if the Majority Leader is willing to pull the trigger. We’re talking about yet another nuclear option. (Washington Times)
[T]he Senate Democrats’ blockade is so severe that some 374 nominees never received a vote last Congress (compared to only 176 unfinished nominations at the end of President Barack Obama’s first biennium).
Hence, some Republicans are pushing for a rules change that would cut debate time for most nominees from 30 hours to eight, or even two. This would mirror a less formal agreement from the Obama presidency through which Republicans allowed Obama’s nominees to advance after only eight hours of debate.
Republicans could try to change the debate time via a formal, bipartisan rules change requiring 60 of 100 senators to concur with the alteration. If that doesn’t work, they say they can do it with just 50 votes (plus Vice President Mike Pence) via a new precedent-setting rules interpretation — a process colloquially known as the “ nuclear option.”
I’m sure some of you may be asking if this isn’t going to spell trouble down the line because the Democrats will turn around and use the same formula next time they control both the Senate and the White House. (And you can rest assured that they will, sooner or later.) I used to cling to that optimistic view myself, but it’s no longer based in reality.
I say “optimistic” because that theory relies on believing that if the GOP doesn’t do it, the Democrats won’t either. We’ve already learned the hard way that this isn’t the case. The Democrats pulled the trigger on the nuclear option first and were already talking about upping the game in 2016 when everyone still thought Hillary Clinton was going to win.
If the GOP draws down the maximum debate time to eight hours it would speed up the confirmation process by nearly a factor of four, even without McConnell cooking up deals with the Democrats to put some through in batches. And it’s the same amount of time that the GOP agreed to give Obama’s nominees without even requiring a rule change, so it’s not as if the limits are oppressive or unprecedented. Chuck Schumer will scream bloody murder, of course, but what else is new?
A second term for Donald Trump is in no way a sure thing at this point. The clock is ticking already and there are too many nominees awaiting confirmation to allow each one of them to eat up several days of debate. The nuclear option is already in play and there’s no reason to shy away from doing this. Leader McConnell should be encouraged to make this change sooner rather than later.