Let’s just start by stating the obvious: Republicans will never again have a right to complain about Democratic obstruction of GOP nominees. It doesn’t matter who that nominee is, or for what position. After Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama by not even giving his nominee Merrick Garland a hearing (let alone a vote) for nearly a year, they permanently sacrificed having a legitimate voice on the issue. Sorry.
But complain they will. Republicans are suddenly concerned about obstruction of nominees and are proposing a plan to speed up consideration of Donald Trump’s picks. Senate Rules Chair Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma have proposed a rules change that would confine debate on many nominees to just two hours rather than the 30 hours currently allowed. The change would not apply to major nominees for positions in the Cabinet or on the Supreme Court, for instance. But hey, Republicans never allowed any debate on Merrick Garland, so the distinctions are pretty meaningless when the GOP majority makes up its own rules anyway.
Nonetheless, Sen. Blunt complained that getting some of Trump’s nominees through is taking as long as 55 days. Well, Garland got no days, so there’s that. “It is clearly an attempt just to use up time to not let the president have the team he needs in place to run the government and not to let us have the legislative time we need,” Blunt said, according to Bloomberg News. But as Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted, there’s no reason to support such a change when Republicans have “monopoly power.”
You might remember that when Democrats were in the majority, they honored the Senate’s “blue-slip” tradition, which allowed the home-state senator of any judicial nominee to block their nomination by refusing to sign off on it. Republicans used the blue slips relentlessly, bottling up an entire pipeline of Obama’s judicial nominees to lower courts. But the Republican majority is now ignoring blue slips from Democratic senators.
If Democrats refuse to support the change, many Republicans back going nuclear by using a simple-majority vote to change the debate rule. Why wouldn’t they? Mitch McConnell has single-handedly used his position in both the minority and the majority to obliterate Senate norms, thereby decimating the entire institution. What’s one more transgression?
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