On Thursday, Senate Republicans came one step closer to going even more nuclear on the process of judicial nominations. Specifically, Senate Republicans’ latest procedural move would, according to Politico, “shave debate time from 30 hours to just two hours for [district court] judges and lower-level executive branch nominees.”
The Daily Wire reported earlier this month about the initial steps that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was taking in order to streamline and expedite the judicial nomination process:
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.
Now, today, The Hill reports that McConnell filed a key procedural motion to bring the “nuclearization” closer to fruition:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a procedural motion Thursday to set up a rules change in the Senate next week that will speed up votes to confirm President Trump’s nominees to federal district courts and sub-Cabinet-level executive branch positions.
McConnell filed cloture — a motion to cut off dilatory debate — on a motion to proceed to Senate Resolution 50, which would dramatically reduce the amount of time Trump’s nominees have to spend on the floor and let Republicans confirm more of his picks.
The resolution would reduce the amount of floor time that must elapse between when the Senate votes to invoke cloture on a nominee and when a final vote is held from 30 hours to two hours. …
McConnell’s action Thursday sets up a vote next week on what would be a permanent standing order to reduce debate time for district court and most executive branch nominees. It needs 60 votes to pass.
Senate Republicans say if Democrats stop the resolution from getting 60 votes, they will go ahead with the nuclear option, a controversial tactic used to set a new Senate precedent, and essentially rewrite the Senate rules, with a simple majority vote.
While judicial nominations have been an indispensable component of the Trump Administration’s agenda and its substantive outreach to conservative supporters, not all conservatives have reacted enthusiastically to the news of McConnell’s “nuclearization” plans. Radio host and conservative blogger Erick Erickson, a longtime critic of McConnell’s, took umbrage with Senate Republicans’ “nuclearization” plans:
The change McConnell is proposing would curtai[l] Senate debate on nominees. That sounds great with Republicans in charge. But wait till the Democrats get the Senate back. What’s more, it would allow the majority and minority leaders in the Senate to decide which senators get to participate in debate. …
If the Senate GOP is willing to scuttle the rules of the Senate twice, it just gets us one step closer to ending the legislative filibuster as well. It is preferable for the GOP to walk this back and just acknowledge that in the world’s greatest deliberative body there should be nothing wrong with deliberating even if it slows things down.
It remains to be seen whether Senate Republicans would be able to conjure up the simple majority number of votes to unilaterally issue a Senate rules re-write, if need be.