Senate Takes Step to Move Nominees at a Reasonable Pace, Fill Important Jobs
‘Yesterday, the Senate took an important step to restore sense and order to the way we approach the executive calendar. It’s one of this body’s most important responsibilities. And yet, it’s been hampered recently by a campaign of systematic and comprehensive obstruction that stands without precedent in American history.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding action taken yesterday to reduce the amount of post-cloture debate time required for sub-cabinet level nominees and lower court judges:
“Yesterday, the Senate took an important step to restore sense and order to the way we approach the executive calendar. It’s one of this body’s most important responsibilities. And yet, it’s been hampered recently by a campaign of systematic and comprehensive obstruction that stands without precedent in American history. I won’t restate each part of our debate from the floor yesterday. But the objective facts of this situation are unambiguous.
“For the past two years, we’ve witnessed the accelerated erosion of the norms by which this body has historically considered presidential nominations. And we’ve seen a disappointing series of records broken in the process. 128 cloture votes on nominations in this president’s first two years. More than five times as many as in the same period of every administration since Jimmy Carter, combined. Forty-two executive branch positions took cloture votes for the first time ever. This has been a new level of paralysis, surrounding even the most well-qualified and least controversial nominees.
“In a way it’s been the natural outgrowth of the erosion on nominations that began in 2003 when our current Democratic Leader helped spur his side of the aisle to walk away from longstanding institutional norms and declare the executive calendar open season for regular, chronic filibuster tactics and forced cloture votes. That’s when this relatively new mess began in earnest. In 2013, in a truly bipartisan vote, a number of Republicans, including me, joined with Democrats to implement new, expedited procedures for lower-tier nominees. We put them in place right at the beginning of President Obama’s second term, even as we on this side were still licking our wounds from the previous November’s election result.
“This week, our Democratic colleagues had the chance to reciprocate. They had the opportunity to do the parallel thing and vote to limit undue Senate delays for this Republican administration the same way we Republicans did for President Obama’s Administration. But they weren’t interested. These days, I am sorry to say, the other side of the aisle seems to be dominated by pure partisanship over absolutely everything else. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that this current behavior would have appeared unimaginable. Just a few decades ago, the idea of routinely forcing 60-vote thresholds and extra delays on nominations was firmly in third-rail territory.
“A lot has happened since then. But I hope my colleagues share my belief that the Senate’s traditions and norms are its greatest assets. And in that respect, yesterday was a very good day for this body as an institution. The Senate’s historically been defined by two traditions. One has preserved the power of the minority in considering legislation -- to pump the brakes, or force a second look. That includes the legislative filibuster, which I know many of us on both sides are 100% committed to preserving. In my view -- in many of our view -- it is inseparable from the way this body was designed. It’s what keeps the Senate from swinging wildly back and forth between each party’s entire agenda.
“I don’t think my Democratic colleagues who are running for president and publicly toying with undermining the legislative filibuster would be too keen to see Republicans enact our entire, full-tilt conservative agenda with just 51 votes. Because some day the shoe would be on the other foot. The shoe in fact – always -- at some point, ends up on the other foot. That’s one tradition. The second tradition, concerning nominations, has always been different. For decades and decades it allowed for a reasonable process for the vast majority of presidents’ nominees. And yesterday, even though Democrats walked away and Republicans had to act alone, we took a big step toward restoring that second part of Senate tradition.
“Now, I am sure yesterday’s progress has not resolved every sore spot. I feel certain we have not seen the last of our Democratic colleagues’ addiction to endlessly re-litigating the 2016 elections instead of moving forward. But with yesterday’s action, the Senate has begun to move past this particularly shameful new chapter. We’ve turned the page on the kind of systematic obstruction and purely partisan delays that were completely foreign to this chamber a few years ago but have since become our daily routine. So now, more progress can take place.
“Yesterday, two unopposed committee votes and more than a year and half after Jeffrey Kessler was named as President Trump’s choice for Assistant Secretary of Commerce, his nomination was subjected to a cloture vote. 95 to 3. And because of our new procedures, he was confirmed by voice vote just two hours later. Then we voted to end debate on the nomination of Roy Altman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Another uncontroversial, bipartisan nominee. Today, we’ll confirm him as well.
“And then we’ll vote to end debate on the nomination of Mark Calabria to direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency. And then we will vote to confirm him, too. Nominees moving at a more reasonable pace. Important jobs finally being filled. Already, real progress -- thanks to yesterday’s pivot back toward the Senate’s historic tradition. And we’ll keep working to clear the backlog of talented individuals who are still waiting patiently behind them.”
Related Issues: Restoring the Senate, Nominations, Judicial Nominations, Senate Democrats