Senate changes rules to hasten confirmations
by Harvest Prude & Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/03/19, 06:24 pm
UPDATE: The U.S. Senate voted 51-48 Wednesday to limit debate on nominations for lower-level federal judgeships and executive appointments, a change that will speed confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees. The rules will allow a simple majority in the Senate to break a filibuster of a nominee’s confirmation after two hours instead of 30. The change will not apply to White House appointees to the Cabinet, Supreme Court, or appellate courts. Every Democrat opposed the measure, and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Lee of Utah voted against it, as well.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (12:23 p.m., 4/3/19): WASHINGTON—Democrats successfully blocked a Republican effort Tuesday to change U.S. Senate rules to limit how long lawmakers debate the president’s nominations. The rule change would have dropped debate time from 30 hours to two before a nominee reaches a full floor vote for confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued that the change is needed because Democrats are holding up President Donald Trump’s nominations at an unprecedented rate, including lower-tier judicial and executive branch picks. Under the rule change, federal appellate judges and Cabinet-level executive branch nominees would still have been subject to 30 hours of debate.
“Today, it may be Senate Democrats who are intent on endlessly relitigating the 2016 election and holding up all these qualified people, but absent a change, these tactics seem guaranteed to become standard practice for Senate minorities on both sides,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I don’t think any of us want that future.”
The motion failed 51-48. It needed 60 votes to pass. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined Democrats in voting against it. McConnell then changed his vote to no so he could present the measure again later.
McConnell said he is prepared to use the so-called “nuclear option,” a parliamentary move that would allow Republicans to change the rules with a simple majority instead of 60 votes. Since 2013, the Senate has slowly implemented rule changes that give the majority more power. Democrats used the nuclear option to lower the number of votes needed to break a filibuster on nominations. In 2017, Republicans changed the rules so Supreme Court nominations only need a simple majority vote.
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Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.