Weekly Columns

The Senate recently adopted changes to make the body more efficient and improve its abilityto fulfill one of its constitutional obligations: providing our advice and consent to the administration in order to fill the executive branch positions that require Senate confirmation. 

In years past, the confirmation of presidential nominees has highlighted the ability of senators to work together and approve nominations when an individual is clearly qualified. Despite the fact that the country is best served by timely confirmation of the president’s nominees, the Senate minority has engaged in historic obstruction for more than two years. This has prevented the ability of President Donald Trump to fully staff federal agencies and confirm his nominees.

In order to respond to the needs of our country, our federal agencies must have the leaders in place to support the administration and serve the needs of all Americans which these federal departments exist to do. 

When you change presidents, you also change personnel in federal agencies. That means processing more than one thousand nominations for executive branch positions. This is in addition to the confirmation of judges to fill vacancies within our federal courts.

Unfortunately, there has been an ongoing effort to hinder the ability of the president to fully staff federal agencies and confirm his nominees to the federal bench.

The rules of the Senate ensure there is ample time to vet and discuss individuals nominated to serve in these important positions. Traditionally the debate time of noncontroversial nominees is minimal, but President Trump’s nominees have moved at a glacial pace through the Senate because the minority is running out the clock on nearly every nomination, even those with broad, widespread support.  

For example, despite the unanimous support among members of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate spent more than an entire week considering four district court judges on the floor, where they eventually received support from every senator for their confirmations.

This is obstruction purely for the sake of obstruction. It ultimately harms the reputation of the Senate as well as the federal departments, agencies and courts where these nominees could already be serving on behalf of the American people.  

What we’ve experienced in terms of being able to confirm nominees to sub-cabinet level positions is unprecedented.  

Over the last two years, Democrats have abused procedure to delay votes on 128 of President Trump’s nominees. In comparison, the first two years of President Obama’s time in office, this only happened 12 times. If you add this to the cloture votes for the first two years of Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton, it’s a total of 24.  

In early April, the Senate took steps to restore the tradition of timely consideration and confirmation of the president’s nominees by reducing debate time. The rule change is similar to the standing order that was approved by senators during a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2013.

This new precedent will still allow lengthy consideration of cabinet-level nominees and those nominated to fill seats on the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. 

Eliminating the ability to delay confirmation of a nominee that most, or sometimes even all, senators eventually vote to support is important to restoring fairness and productivity in the Senate. Timely consideration of executive branch nominees improves efficiency and ultimately holds the administration more accountable to the American people.