GOP wants to change rules to ram through more radical Trump nominees


Republicans might change the rules so that Trump's unqualified nominees can sail right through the Senate.

In a move that should surprise no one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is considering changing the Senate's rules yet again to rush even more of Trump's nominees through the confirmation process. The expedited confirmations could start as soon as next week.

Republicans are unhappy about the fact that under the current rules, Democrats get to demand a thorough debate period of up to 30 hours per nominee. The proposed rule would drastically cut debate time for mid-level agency appointees to 8 hours, and limit post-cloture discussions for district court judicial nominations to a mere 2 hours.

Republicans like to claim Democrats are engaging in unprecedented obstruction of Trump's nominees. But that doesn't pass the laugh test given how badly the GOP obstructed nominations by President Barack Obama — obstruction that left Trump with almost twice as many judicial vacancies to fill as Obama had at the start of his presidency.

Trump seems to have more openings than he knows what to do with. He has dragged his feet on nominations, and even bragged about nominating far fewer people to agency roles.

Yet with McConnell's help, Trump has still been remarkably successful at packing the courts with his ultra-conservative judicial choices — so much so that right-wing outlets like Townhall praise McConnell for his "valiant role" in cementing Trump's judicial legacy.

McConnell began this shameful process when he refused to even meet with Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, let alone bring his nomination to the Senate floor. He continued it when the Senate used the "nuclear option," getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, to ensure that Justice Neil Gorsuch got confirmed even though it was clear the GOP didn't have the votes under the existing rules.

Now, the Senate will likely change its rules yet again — all to benefit future Trump nominees, who may suffer from the same shocking lack of qualifications as his some of his past ones.

In the Trump era, the GOP has no interest in pretending that the legislative branch is independent of the executive — just in letting Trump do whatever Trump wants. The constitutional requirement of advice and consent is utterly foreign to Republicans now. Instead, they're willing to eviscerate the rules and norms of the Senate so that Trump's often sub-par nominees can sail through the process ever faster.

Disgust at the GOP's poor behavior no doubt contributed to the stellar performance of Democrats in the 2018 election. This poor behavior may very well help underpin a blue wave in 2020 as well. If that happens, Republicans will find that their weakening of Senate rules and norms can be used against them.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.