UPDATED 11:08 AM PT — Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Senate Republicans are inching closer toward deploying their last resort option in the face of Democrat obstruction.
Members of the GOP leadership caucus met with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, where they considered the possible use of a procedural tactic called the nuclear option. This would allow Republicans to advance confirmation votes with only a simple majority instead of the current 60 vote threshold needed. The nuclear option has been triggered two times during the last six years by Republicans and Democrats alike.
McConnell said he’d still prefer to strike a deal with Democrats to speed up the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominees, but warned he would move forward with the nuclear option if they continue to block the president from filling a backlog of essential nominations.
McConnell explained how Democrats are taking advantage of current rules to eat up valuable floor time to delay nominations, even for candidates that are not considered controversial. He claimed this has lead to a crisis in the administration due to an enormous amount of vacancies below the cabinet level. This concern has been echoed by many in the upper chamber.
“Unfortunately, what we are seeing on the other side is just obstruction, they don’t want to move people,” said Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan. “Come on down, explain it — tell the American people why assistant secretaries across federal agencies, who have been waiting months to be confirmed by this body, who have been voted out of committee with big bipartisan numbers, sit and wait and wait and wait.”The measure would allow the Senate to consider an executive nominee or district judge after just two-hours of debate, substantially reducing the current 30-hour wait time after a cloture vote.
It’s important to note nominations to the cabinet, supreme court or appellate court would be exempt from the rule change.
At this point, Republicans think they have the 50 votes needed to approve use of the nuclear option if Democrats refuse to work together to pass this measure in the traditional way.
Senators Roy Blunt and John Cornyn, both members of the caucus, are confident the rules change proposal will receive a vote soon. They said it could happen as early as this month after senators get back from recess on March 25th.