Majority leader Mitch McConnell is considering a more aggressive approach to confronting Democrats’ obstruction and delay of confirming President Trump’s nominees for judges and positions in the federal government, after hearing frustrations from other GOP senators, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
The senator from Kentucky signaled to Democrats this week that he would force all senators to remain in session on Friday and possibly sacrifice their weekend to confirm a slate of Trump’s nominees.
The new push to pick up the pace began Monday night and continued into Tuesday.
“We have a number of nominees to consider in the next several days,” McConnell said Monday night on the Senate floor. “The Senate’s workweek will not end until all of these amply qualified nominees are confirmed.”
On Tuesday, he followed up this remark by pledging that the Senate will stay in session “as long as it takes” to clear this current slate of six nominees. The nominations, he said, have been “vetted” and their expertise is “well-known.”
“Their positions sit empty, waiting to be filled. The American people are waiting for their president to have his full team, and for their federal government to be appropriately staffed,” McConnell remarked.
The six nominations up for confirmation this week include Trump’s choice for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board and nominees for key posts at the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, and two district court judges.
After receiving criticism for not doing enough to push the Republican agenda, Republican senators are now applauding McConnell’s action which signals a more confrontational approach with Democrats than has been seen previously with McConnell’s ruling.
Giving up a weekend may not seem like a big sacrifice, but for Democrats who are desperately putting any extra time and energy they have into the midterm election in the hopes of pushing out the Republican majority, it is a big sacrifice.
Senate Democrats are defending 10 seats in states Trump won the last cycle. Republican senators in tough reelection fights would also pay a price for the lost weekends, but most of the top Senate seats most likely to flip parties are currently occupied by Democrats.
Republicans pushing for more action on the nominations say its high time to hold Democrats accountable for their delaying tactics.
Instead of deferring to most presidential appointees by agreeing to conserve precious Senate floor time, Democrats have demanded that each political nominee receive 30 hours of debate, a process known as invoking cloture.
As of now, Democrats have successfully stalled a final Senate confirmation vote on more than 70 nominees who have made it through the thorough committee vetting process.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short in mid-March said the Democrats’ unprecedented delaying tactics are “essentially weaponizing a Senate procedure” and calculated that at the current rate of confirmations, it would take more than 11 years to confirm Trump administration nominees.
But thanks to McConnell’s tougher stance, it may already be producing results. Democrats did not require 30 hours of debate they could have on the first nominee set for a vote: Claria Boom nominated to be a U.S. district court judge.
The true test will be if Democrats relent on their obstruction of the confirmation of Richard Grenell, who Trump nominated to be ambassador to Germany in September and several other well-qualified nominees who have been waiting for months for their confirmations.
If Democrats do not relent, Republicans could decide to blow up the Senate rules to limit the amount of time Democrats can delay confirmation votes.
Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) is pursuing a “gridlock reform” plan that would require the Senate to reduce the rule allowing for a maximum of 30 hours of Senate debate for every presidential nominee down to eight hours, excluding cabinet secretaries.
Lankford argued that the Democrats’ dilatory tactics were preventing the Senate from doing its job to confirm Trump’s nominees and also do the other job that they were elected to do: pass legislation.
“The challenge is we have learned as a body that we are now either going to do nominees or we’re going to do legislation, but we can’t do both,” he said. “Because if the calendar if full for a week on three nominations you’ll never get to any legislation.”
McConnell last fall signaled that he is open to Lankford’s proposal or others like it.
While the GOP leader has said he wants to maintain the Senate minority party’s ability to filibuster legislation, he said presidential nominees are a “different matter” and deemed Democratic delays “just simply ridiculous.”
“I think the delays post-cloture that have been employed are just simply ridiculous, and Sen. Lankford is the point person on this. He’s talking to the Democrats.”
“A lot of them feel the same way,” McConnell said, adding that there could be a way to adjust the rules in a way that can help get the Trump administration positions filled in “a timely manner.”