If you didn’t already think that Senate Republicans were the most hypocritical and self-serving group of individuals since, well, House Republicans, their latest proposed move may be the incident that pushes it over the edge.
The Hill reports today that senior Republican leadership in the Senate is considering changing Senate rules to accelerate the approval of President Trump’s nominees. The Senators who have publicly discussed the idea cite a need to cut down debate time in the confirmation process to prevent Democrats from using standard Senate procedures to delay and “stonewall” Trump’s historically unqualified picks for government positions that require Senate approval and to block implementation of the GOP’s agenda.
Given that Republican Senators used every trick in the Senate rulebook to obstruct the Democratic agenda of Barack Obama when he was in office, the latest move proves that the Republicans have no credo or morals beyond getting their own way. They even went so far as to invent new rules, such as a sitting President doesn’t deserve to have his Supreme Court nominees voted upon during his last year in office (although by that measure the Senate certainly should refuse to consider any future Supreme Court nominees from a President on the brink of impeachment).
According to The Hill, the Republican Senators have been discussing the move privately for months, but support for it is increasing as they grow more and more frustrated by the slow pace of the approval votes.
“It merely shortens what is currently an unreasonably long process,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
The rule change was formally proposed by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) who “wants to limit the amount of debate time on nominations after they’ve already cleared a procedural hurdle and shown they have enough support to pass.” His resolution would limit post-cloture debate for non-Cabinet nominees to eight hours, down from 30 hours currently. Debate would be limited to two hours for district court nominees whose decisions can be overturned by federal circuit courts or the Supreme Court.
Given that Republicans have approved some of the least qualified judges to ever be nominated to the bench under the Trump administration, with some nominees so inexperienced that they were forced to withdraw because they had never even tried a case, Democrats are not happy with the idea.
“I just feel this is not the right moment to make these changes as the rule,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said. “This change would only add to the partisan atmosphere.”
“Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who has proposed his own rules changes, argued Lankford’s proposal ‘benefits only the majority.'”
The Democrats see the rule change as payback for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision in 2013 to change the filibuster rules regarding executive nominations and lower-court nominations from a 60 vote limit to a simple majority to overcome the Republicans’ refusal to consider Obama’s judicial nominee.
Many Democrats consider that Republicans already had more than ample payback for that move by employing the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminating the 60 vote rule for Supreme Court nominees, the only way that they managed to get Neil Gorsuch on the bench after the GOP denied Merrick Garland, Obama’s pick, the chance at being considered.
Republicans are down to a one-vote majority in the Senate after Doug Jones won the recent special election for the Senate in Alabama, so they may not have enough votes to pass the rules changes if even one Senator from their party objects. Both Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) have expressed opposition to the rules changes in the past, so changing the rules through regular rules of order may be difficult.
However, there is still need to be concerned given what Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said earlier this year regarding what would happen if the rules can’t be changed through normal procedures: “then there are procedures that are available to change the Senate rules post-cloture.”