McConnell on Democrats Slow-Walking Nominees: ‘This is Partisan Obstruction, Elevated to an Art Form’

‘This is where we are. Democrats chewing up hours of Senate time on nominees that literally no Senator opposes. I understand my friends on the other side have a number of disagreements with our president. That tends to happen in politics. But that is no excuse at all for this historic obstruction of noncontroversial nominees. It’s bad for the Senate. It’s unfair to the American people.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding historic obstruction from Senate Democrats and the need to confirm more of the president’s well-qualified nominees:

“This week, we confirmed yet another well-qualified nominee to the federal bench. Now Kyle Duncan of Louisiana can get to work serving on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. His qualifications are impressive. But his sterling reputation among colleagues and peers was an even greater testament to Mr. Duncan’s fitness. I’m glad the Fifth Circuit will benefit from his expertise.

“Speaking of well-qualified nominees, the Senate will vote today on the president’s choice for Secretary of State. We will consider an outstanding nominee. Fortunately, we have the votes. And later today, we will confirm Mike Pompeo as our nation’s 70th Secretary of State. We’ve been discussing Director Pompeo’s abundant qualifications all week. In little over a year, the Senate has had two opportunities to assess his considerable qualifications.

“Last January, a bipartisan supermajority of us saw fit to confirm him as CIA Director. And his performance in that role -- exemplary by all accounts -- has given us even more compelling cause to confirm him to serve as our chief diplomat. He’s earned the trust and confidence of the commander-in-chief by providing top-notch counsel on critical issues and helping lead ongoing efforts to lay the groundwork for negotiations aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

“Along the way, he deepened his reputation for fairness and discernment. I’m glad President Trump has nominated this distinguished leader to be America’s chief diplomat -- and I’m glad a bipartisan majority of senators will vote to confirm him today.

“It’s just too bad Director Pompeo’s confirmation process has offered such a prime example of the historic partisan obstruction that my colleagues across the aisle are visiting on the Senate. All fair observers agree that Mike is up to the job. Here’s how the Washington Post, not known as a bastion of Republican thinking, titled their editorial: ‘Confirm Mike Pompeo.’ But despite all this, Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee almost took the unprecedented step of voting him out with an unfavorable recommendation. That attempt to play politics with our nation’s security failed.

“But even so, according to the Senate Historian, he became just the second Secretary of State nominee in recent memory to clear committee by a margin of only one vote. The only other time that’s happened—in all of Senate history—was also at the hands of Senate Democrats during the Trump administration. And once they got here on the floor, they were also the only two Secretary of State nominees in history who needed cloture to receive confirmation votes. Let me repeat that.

“From the founding of the republic until 2017, the Senate has never required a cloture vote to confirm a Secretary of State nominee. Now we’re at two. I guess Senate Democrats are in a history-making mood. Because over the past fifteen months, they’ve embarked on a partisan campaign to block, obstruct, and delay President Trump’s nominees that is quite simply without precedent in American history.

“Let’s put things in perspective. In the first two years of the last six presidencies combined, the Senate subjected nominees to a total of 24 cloture votes. Add up President Carter’s first two years, President Reagan’s first two years, and so on, through Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama – 24 total cloture votes on nominees.

“And for President Trump? Eighty-eight and counting. Just 15 months into his term. By the end of the day, it will be 90. Ninety cloture votes on nominees. This is partisan obstruction, elevated to an art form. And every one of us has seen it firsthand. It’s not just the high-profile nominations. Scores of unobjectionable choices for all kinds of posts have languished on the Senate calendar.

“It took months and months – and several deadly accidents – to persuade Senate Democrats to stop obstructing a fully-qualified nominee to lead the Federal Railroad Administration. Or take the example of district court judges. With only one exception, we’ve had to file cloture on every single district court nominee. It doesn’t matter if every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee supports the nominee. It doesn’t matter if every Democrat in the whole Senate supports the nominee. No matter what, our colleagues across the aisle are insisting on obstruction -- for no reason.

“Here are some of the final vote totals for these district judges: Ninety-six to one. Ninety-eight to zero. Ninety-seven to three. Ninety-five to zero. Ninety-six to zero. Ninety-eight to zero, again. 100 to zero. Back in January, it took more than a week of the Senate’s time to confirm four district court judges – and not one senator voted “no” on any of them. Our problem is not the qualified personnel before us. Our problem is that nearly half the Senate has decided that resisting for the sake of resistance is more politically advantageous than doing right by this institution and our constituents.

“This is where we are. Democrats chewing up hours of Senate time on nominees that literally no Senator opposes. I understand my friends on the other side have a number of disagreements with our president. That tends to happen in politics. But that is no excuse at all for this historic obstruction of noncontroversial nominees. It’s bad for the Senate. It’s unfair to the American people.

“That’s why I support Senator Lankford’s efforts to enact the very same rules change that a large and bipartisan majority agreed to in 2013. It would empower the Senate to process nominations more quickly while preserving ample opportunity for debate.

“It is precisely the rules change that my friend the Democratic Leader supported back in 2013. I joined in that bipartisan effort, along with a number of my fellow Republicans. It passed 78 to 16. The White House may have changed hands. But the last time I checked, fair is still fair, and common sense is still common sense.

“So Senator Lankford is giving my Democratic colleagues their very own chance to show that principled convictions matter more than political convenience. I am proud to back his proposal, and glad to see the Rules Committee advance it to the floor yesterday. There’s no reason why every senator shouldn’t be able to join us.

“Otherwise, until our Democratic colleagues put aside their historic obstruction, Republicans will continue to do our duty and process the president’s nominations one way or another. After Mike Pompeo, I filed cloture on Ric Grenell’s nomination to serve as Ambassador to Germany. We will vote on his confirmation later this afternoon.”

"So why don’t we turn over a new leaf together, and start rebuilding the comity and customs that ought to define our work here. Just yesterday, the Rules Committee held a very productive meeting that took a step in that direction. Colleagues from both sides of the aisle took a serious look at what we can do as a body to more efficiently fulfill our responsibilities in the appropriations process.

"And that follows on a productive meeting I had with the Democratic Leader, the Appropriations chairman, and the ranking member a few days earlier. So I’m hopeful about our prospects of moving forward together. We need to keep this momentum going and extend it to nominations.

"This Congress has already made great progress implementing a pro-growth, pro-opportunity agenda for the middle-class, including historic tax relief for families and small businesses. But there’s much more to do. That’s how the Senate should be spending our time -- exchanging ideas and fighting for the American people.

Related Issues: Judicial Nominations, Nominations, National Security