It all started with a tweet, as so many things in political media do these days.
.@foxandfriends Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
It was a complaint over the slow pace of approvals for the President’s nominations. Coming as it did on the heels of an attack in London, this gave Trump’s opponents in the media ample opportunity to stop talking about terrorist attacks, radical Islam and all the rest and begin to bellow about how Trump might have more approvals if he would actually nominate some people for the the Senate to perform their Advise and Consent duties on. I’ve seen several of these in the past few days and another one showed up at Time Magazine yesterday.
Setting aside the fact that his fellow Republicans control the Senate, there remains a very large problem here: the White House has not nominated anyone for the job in London. Trump announced during a gala luncheon on Jan. 19 that New York Jets owners Woody Johnson would be his pick, but the White House has not referred the nomination to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It’s tough for anyone—Republicans or Democrats—to confirm a nominee who hasn’t been nominated. An ambassador-in-theory at the Court of Saint James does the United States no good…
On a broader level, the lack of Ambassador speaks to Trump’s slow and indifferent efforts to fill out the 559 government posts that require Senate confirmation. Only 39 of those have been confirmed in the Senate, and 442 have yet to have a name announced, according to a tally maintained by the Washington Post and the non-partisan Partnership for Public Service and updated Monday morning. And, as the Partnership notes in a memo to reporters, Trump actually has more Ambassadors confirmed than Barack Obama or George W. Bush.
Since this keeps coming up, let’s break it down into a few questions because there is plenty of blame to go around and, just possibly, some areas where “problems” are actually features rather than bugs.
Are the Democrats obstructing Trump’s nominations?
There’s no question and they’ve been making no secret of it. Pretty much any opportunity they get to keep someone from reaching fifty votes has been seized on or at least attempted. And they are slowing the entire process to a grind whenever they can. The average Trump nomination has taken 85 days to confirm so far. For Obama it was 32 days. For Bush it was 11.
Isn’t this partly the fault of the GOP?
No doubt about that either. We have the votes to confirm a canned ham, as the saying goes, but only if the entire GOP caucus is voting as a block. That’s not happening in all cases and the reasons are many and can vary from nominee to nominee. There are some NeverTrumpers left in the Senate who seem fairly willing to rob the President of a vote given some sort of excuse. Others don’t look upon Trump as true conservative and probably think the same of his nominees. And some are facing reelection and are probably afraid that going along with Trump may sink them back home if they’re in a weak position. But at the same time, traditionally you wouldn’t need 50 Republicans because there were always a certain number of Democratic votes for most any nominee so you could lose a few of your own. Not so this year in most cases.
But isn’t Trump going too slow in in naming candidates?
Here’s that tricky question I mentioned above. If you assume that part of the President’s duty is to fill up each one of the 559 positions which require Senate approval and to do so with alacrity, then yes. Trump is moving at a snail’s pace. But what if he has no plan to do so and this is intentional? He came in with a mandate to put the federal behemoth on a crash diet and an attitude that many of these functions are a waste of time. If you believe that he’s serious about that he might not have any intention of filling them quickly… if at all. And if that’s the case, then I guess he’s moving at the right speed.
So do the Democrats (and the liberal media) have a point here?
Let’s go back to the basic premise. Trump isn’t getting his nominees approved because he’s not nominating anybody. The President has put up 117 names. Just 39 have been confirmed. I suppose if more of the remaining 442 were nominated they might find some to approve quickly. Or perhaps not. Until they can come to a conclusion about the 58 which are still in limbo we have no proof that nominating more would produce more filled seats any faster. I’d rate this last question as impossible to answer.