When it comes to obstruction, Chuck Schumer is playing the long game

We’re all familiar with the ongoing complaint in the media regarding how slow President Trump has been in filling up the many appointed federal positions which are traditionally occupied during each administration. While it’s true that he got off to a bit of a slow start, dozens of additional nominations requiring Senate approval have been rolling out in recent weeks. There’s always a bit of gamesmanship over any “controversial” nominations, but as the Wall Street Journal points out this week the problem is no longer with the White House. Trump has pretty much caught up to the normal curve for submitting names and now it’s the Senate which is gumming up the works.

According to the Partnership for Public Service, as of June 28 Mr. Trump had nominated 178 appointees but the Senate had confirmed only 46. Barack Obama had 183 nominees confirmed by that date in his first term, and George W. Bush 130.

The White House has understandably begun to make a public issue of the delays, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says it “has only itself to blame.” But a press release Mr. Schumer sent out Monday made the White House case, showing that the Senate has received 242 nominations but confirmed only 50 through June 30. Democrats are now the problem.

Among the non-controversial nominees awaiting confirmation: Kevin Hassett to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers; David Malpass, under secretary at Treasury for international affairs; two nominees needed to review pipelines and other projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Noel Francisco for Solicitor General.

So, at the same point in their respective presidencies, Barack Obama had more than 180 nominees confirmed and the younger Bush had 130. When you compare that to Trump, currently having only 46 confirmations out of nearly 180 names submitted, the picture becomes clear. Somebody is holding up these proceedings and it’s not the Republicans. That leaves us with Chuck Schumer as the sole remaining suspect.

But, you might be thinking, now that the problem has been exposed they can simply process a bunch of them, hold some votes and get on with the normal order of affairs. Not so. Schumer has one trick he’s already rolled out which, as the WSJ explains, could move this far, far into record setting territory. (Emphasis added.)

Democratic obstruction against nominees is nearly total, most notably including a demand for cloture filings for every nominee—no matter how minor the position. This means a two-day waiting period and then another 30 hours of debate. The 30-hour rule means Mr. Trump might not be able to fill all of those 400 positions in four years. The cloture rule also allows the minority to halt other business during the 30-hour debate period, which helps slow the GOP policy and oversight agenda.

The math on this is solid. There are only so many hours in a given week when the Senate can get any work done and if you block off thirty hours for debate on the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Lawnmower Maintenance Regulatory Oversight in the Department of the Interior, you’ve eaten up the better part of a week. The majority of these people are worker bees who will be acting at the direction of the department heads, not bringing in their own radical policies to reshape America into whatever dark, dystopian hellscape Chuck Schumer is imagining. Getting a quick voice vote for some of them would be a no brainer under any other set of circumstances.

The final point being brought up by the Journal is equally disturbing. The more time Schumer can chew up with these low level appointments, the less time there will be for any of the rest of the President’s agenda to be acted on. Since the only real game plan that the Democrats have right now is to #RESIST! Trump, this is hardly coincidental. The WSJ editors open their piece with a demand for the GOP leadership to, “restore normal order.” That sounds good in theory, but as long as Schumer is following the rules currently on the books (which were written when nobody even imagined this level of obstructionism) it’s difficult to see what can be done. This is not the New York Senator’s first trip to the rodeo and he knows how to play this game as ugly as possible.