By Robert Romano
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has cancelled the August recess, citing Senate Democrat obstructionism on federal judges.
So far, since President Donald Trump took office, the Senate has confirmed just 39 of his nominees; 80 are now pending. That includes one Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, and 21 circuit judges and 17 district judges confirmed.
Since 1952, presidents have averaged 163 judges confirmed per term of office. But at the current rate of confirmation — about 2.36 a month — Trump will only have 113 or so confirmed his first term, the fewest confirmed since the Depression and World War II era, when there were far fewer judges to be confirmed.
That is, unless the Senate can get its act together and get back on track.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) agreed with McConnell’s assessment on Democrat obstruction, writing on Twitter, “Iowans asked me last [week at] 12 county [meetings] ‘How are u coming along on nominations?’ [F]air [question and] in the face of [Democrat] obstruction longer work hours [are] needed [let’s] vote Fridays/[weekends]/August until we clear the deck of all judicial nominees.”
Grassley noted in a separate tweet, “Why would the Democrats make us go thru filibuster [and] waste hours on a judge nomination? [D]istrict judge Robert Wier just now confirmed 95-0!! He could’ve gone [through] on a voice vote!”
Apparently, Democrats are requiring cloture on nearly every single nomination. And the problem extends well beyond the Judiciary.
In the executive branch, there are currently 128 civilian posts pending before Senate committees, 69 civilian posts that are pending on the Senate floor, 123 military posts pending before committees, and one military post pending on the Senate floor.
That’s 321 executive branch appointments still pending. Combined with the 80 judges still awaiting confirmation, that means the Senate has 401 posts to fill yet.
If Democrats were to demand cloture on each and every one of them, that would be 30 hours of debate for each, taking up more than 500 legislative days. The Senate only averages 162 work days per calendar year, so it would literally take more than 3 years to clear the current docket assuming there’s a vote every 30 hours and no time was made for legislation.
President Trump’s first term would already be over by then.
Usually most of these nominations fly through on unanimous consent, particularly district court judges, various boards of governors, commissions or military posts, as Sen. Grassley was noting.
Therefore, if Senate Democrats demand cloture for every nomination, then it is up to McConnell to either end the 30-hour cloture rule once and for all and just have a marathon of votes to clear the decks, or else force Senate Democrats to hold the floor for a real filibuster by eliminating the courtesy currently extended to filibustering senators.
Something’s got to give. Right now, the Senate is broken, calling into question how will work at all in the future. Either unanimous consent for uncontroversial nominees must be restored, or else the 30-hour debate rule eliminated. This is no way for a government to function.