U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and Senator James Lankford's (Okla.) resolution (S. Res. 50) to update the Senate rules for most Senate-confirmed nominees passed out of the committee in a vote of 10 to 9. The resolution will reduce the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time to two hours for most nominees, including many Executive Branch nominees and district court judges, while maintaining 30 hours for high-level nominees, including Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet-level officials. The resolution will now move to the Senate floor for a vote by the full Senate.
"Senate Democrats have abused the rules to the point where the president can't put his team in place and the Senate can't do its work," said Blunt. "The degree of obstruction we've seen during the first two years of the Trump administration is totally unacceptable. This resolution will expedite the confirmation process by building on rules changes that were in place during the 113th Congress and widely supported on both sides of the aisle. I hope to see it voted on by the full Senate quickly so we can end the delay tactics and do the job the American people expect us to do."
"I am pleased to see our resolution pass the Rules Committee today," said Lankford. "In the past, every President was essentially able to select their staff and begin serving the American people right after inauguration--until President Trump. In the past two years, Democrats have slowed the confirmation of more than 100 nominees, which has created a new low standard for how all future presidents will be treated. If we do not update our rules now, the Senate will continue down a new path of needless delays and even greater inefficiency. "This rule update resolution represents an idea that anyone in the Senate, current or future, should be able to support: a functional, working Senate. This resolution would permanently end the needless time delays in the Senate confirmation process, while protecting extended debate time for high-level nominees. Post-cloture debate time should be used for debate, not meaningless delay on an empty Senate floor. I hope my colleagues see the importance of permanently correcting the Senate rules for nominations and will join us as we try to get the Senate back to work."
A cloture request from any Senator is an additional 30 hours of floor debate on a nominee after an "intervening day." Intended to be used for only the most controversial nominees, cloture votes could add up to three additional days of debate. In the past, most nominees did not require a cloture vote at all, so they came to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote quickly after extensive background checks, committee hearings, and a committee vote.
For the previous three presidents, there was an average of eight cloture votes in the first two years of a president's term. However, in the first two years of the Trump Administration, cloture was filed on 148 of President Trump's nominees (62 Judicial and 86 Executive) in the 115th Congress, and the Senate was forced to hold 128 cloture votes. This has slowed nominations to a glacial pace in the Senate. The Senate works through the confirmation process on more than 1,000 nominees for each new president. If an additional cloture vote is required on each nominee, it could take more than 2,000 days (almost 5.5 years) just for the President's staff to be confirmed and Judicial Branch vacancies to be filled.