News and Commentary

NUCLEAR: McConnell Prepares New Procedural Tactic To Expedite Judicial Nominations

On Wednesdsay, Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is preparing a new parliamentary tactic to increase the pace of the Senate’s (already rapid) judicial confirmation process. Specifically, per Politico, Senate Republicans are preparing to limit Senate floor debate time on President Trump’s district court judicial nominees and lower-level Executive Branch nominees from 30 hours down to two hours.

Per Politico:

The Senate is on track to confirm the 34th Circuit Court judge of Trump’s presidency in the next week and the GOP has three more ready for floor action; that would give Trump roughly 20 percent of the Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years in office. At this rate, McConnell and Trump could leave few, if any, vacancies there for a potential Democratic president in 2021.

Even more alarming for Democrats, the GOP is also preparing to pull the trigger on the “nuclear option” and change Senate rules once again with a simple majority to allow much quicker confirmation of lower court judges in the coming months. …

Though Trump and McConnell have set an impressive pace at the Circuit Court level, they’ve lagged on District Court vacancies. But that is likely to change as Republicans prepare to sideline Democrats and shave debate time from 30 hours to just two hours for those judges and lower-level executive branch nominees.

Trump currently has 128 District Court vacancies to fill, and each one can take multiple days under current rules if any senator demands a delay; if Republicans change the rules, Trump could conceivably fill most of those over the next 20 months.

Senate Republicans would need 50 votes to go “nuclear” and decrease the floor debate time. Politico reports that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), one of McConnell’s top deputies, was seen on the Senate floor on Tuesday trying to persuade the mercurial moderate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

For much of the past decade, the U.S. Senate has been involved in a bipartisan one-way ratchet to make the judicial advice and consent process easier to execute for the majority party. In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) went “nuclear” and eliminated the judicial filibuster for lower federal court judicial nominees. In 2017, during the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation debate, McConnell eliminated the same judicial filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

Many conservatives and conservative groups have been pushing for McConnell to further up the ante, as Senate Democrats have tried their best to stall out much of the Trump Administration’s Judicial Branch and Executive Branch confirmation agenda. For example, in August 2018, the Heritage Foundation put out a report, “The Left’s Obstruction of Qualified Trump Nominees Is Yet Another Front in the War Against the President.”

More than a year and a half after the inauguration of Donald Trump’s presidency, the left continues to obstruct the confirmation of nominees to critical posts in both the executive and judicial branches. The unprecedented obstructionism denies leadership to executive branch departments and agencies and impedes the fair and swift administration of justice.