by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Faced with the resulting backlog of nominees, and with Democrats insisting on 30 hours of floor debate even for innocuous district court nominees and relatively low level executive branch officials, Senate Republicans, understandably, are frustrated. Reportedly, some were enraged by the fact that when the Senate reconvened earlier this month, more than 270 nominations had been “returned.”
Thus, at a “retreat” earlier this week, Senate Republicans discussed changing Senate rules to expedite the confirmation of Trump’s nominees for federal district court judges and executive branch nominees other than Cabinet picks and selections for bipartisan commissions such as the Federal Communications Commission. The idea is to limit floor debate for these nominees to a few hours, perhaps two or three.
Ordinarily, such a change requires 67 votes but, according to the Washington Post, McConnell discussed deploying the “nuclear option” to change the rules by a simple majority. Harry Reid and the Democrats used this option to end the filibustering of cabinet members and judges below the Supreme Court level. Republicans then used it to apply the same rule to Supreme Court nominees.
The Post notes that the rule change under consideration by Republicans would be permanent, so that a future Democratic president could benefit from it. This prospect should not deter Republicans from pulling the trigger. If a future Republican Senate tries to obstruct a future Democratic president’s nominees, the Dems will change the rules without hesitating.