Senate Republicans Finally Growing A Pair.

Posted on March 13, 2019

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Senate Republicans are preparing to reinterpret Senate Rules in coming weeks to reduce the number of hours required to confirm presidential nominations, responding to Democrats’ unprecedented obstruction of President Trump’s nominees for both the judiciary and the Executive Branch. Under Senate Rule XXII, debate on any matter can continue indefinitely. This is called a filibuster, when senators are deliberately continuing debate for the purpose of preventing a vote – unless three-fifths of senators (60) vote to break the filibuster by invoking cloture. Once cloture is invoked, further debate is limited to 30 additional hours, then a final vote must take place. Rule XXII is designed to force debate on legislation. Historically it has generally not been used on presidential nominations. You can amend legislation, but a nomination is a simple yes-or-no proposition. Article II of the Constitution specifies that all federal judges require Senate confirmation, as do senior positions in the administration. Currently, 1,200 positions out of 4,100 political appointments in a presidential administration are “principal officers” that are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Theoretically, the Senate could use its confirmation power to keep seats on the federal judiciary – including even the Supreme Court – open indefinitely. Senators could also employ it to hamstring a presidential administration by denying a vote to presidential nominees for key positions in the government. In fact, that is what Senate Democrats are doing now. Judges are being slow-walked, with more cloture votes being required in two years for President Trump’s picks than all the judicial nominations of every previous president combined since the filibuster was created in the late 1800s. Similarly, hundreds of the 1,200 Senate-confirmed positions in the Trump administration are still vacant.

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