Weekly Columns

The Senate has a unique responsibility in our constitutional system. We’re in the personnel business, or in other words, the Senate must approve many of the Officers of the United States who are nominated by the president as described in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. It’s customary for senators to meet with executive branch nominees when the senator serves on a committee that oversees the department or agency at which the nominee will serve.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I recently met with Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I appreciate her willingness to accept this call to serve our nation in an extremely challenging capacity. Given her experience, she is a worthy candidate for this role, but before she begins this job, she has to be confirmed by the Senate.

Considerable time is spent in committees reviewing the qualifications and backgrounds of presidential nominees. Within the last two weeks, the committees I serve on – the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Agriculture Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee – all approved nominees to serve in various administration positions. It’s important that these positions are filled in order to carry out the work of the agencies. Unfortunately, the Senate has a logjam of nominees including federal judges, numerous unfilled agency positions and a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. 

There is no reason for the needless delays and obstruction occurring on these nominees. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are using procedural tactics to stall the confirmation of non-controversial nominees. The reality is the president’s nominees will be confirmed, so forcing these roadblocks won’t alter the result. Even nominees with bipartisan support from Senate committees and who would otherwise be confirmed by voice vote are awaiting approval by the full Senate.

Slowing down the process is an inconvenience that forces the Senate to spend more time on confirmations that would be better spent on debating legislation like appropriations bills and the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

This obstruction has become too familiar in the Senate. In President Obama’s first year in office, Republicans used a procedural hurdle for one of his judicial nominees. This year, Democrats forced this maneuver for all of President Trump’s judicial nominees, except one. 

This follows a desperate pattern by Democrats that began with stalling votes for Cabinet-level nominees, stricter scrutiny of candidates and boycotting committee hearings to vet President Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

There are more than 90 presidential nominees awaiting Senate approval. In early August, the Senate confirmed 60 nominees by voice vote in one day. Senate Democrats need to end their unnecessary delays that are preventing well-qualified individuals from getting to work so our federal departments and agencies have the fully functioning staff they require to advance the priorities of the administration.