To save the Senate, GOP should shut down Democrats
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The good news from Washington is that right before departing for its August recess, the Senate confirmed 67 of President Trump’s nominees, including deputy and assistant secretaries, commissioners, and ambassadors. For conservatives, that’s cause to celebrate, right? Well, not so fast. 

While this last-minute sprint to confirm nominees to critical posts is a positive direction in the confirmation saga, there is still a long way to go. And the outlook for the vacant judicial positions is even more alarming. At this point, President Trump has more judicial vacancies to fill than he had when he came into office in January (138 today compared to 105 when he assumed office).

Democrats, still smarting from their devastating election defeats last November, are determined to block Trump’s agenda at every turn. Blocking his ability to staff up his own administration is a key part of that strategy, as is their effort to hamper the president from leaving his stamp on the judiciary — both of which the American people want President Trump to be able to do.

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Senate Democrats are resorting to every trick in the book, from using the blue slip (an arcane Senate tradition that allows the two home-state senators to weigh in on a judicial nominee), to refusing to show up for votes, to staging walk-outs, and generally stalling the nomination process – all with the sole purpose of being obstructionist. (And don’t just take my word for it. Democratic senators’ press releases describe their obstructionism as an end goal in and of itself.) 

 

Under Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE’s (D-N.Y.) leadership, the Democrats have used the entire allowable debate time period (30 hours) on every single judicial nominee, and on many of the executive nominees. Oklahoma Republican Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordA year into Trump's presidency, the media is still ignorant of his plan for a wall Trump's 's---hole' remark sparks bipartisan backlash GOP senator: Trump’s reported ‘s---hole’ comments ‘disappointing’ MORE has done the math, and calculates that at that rate, it would take 11 years for a president to fill the executive branch. That’s hardly an optimal timeframe, especially given the 22nd Amendment.

In addition to that delay tactic on the Senate floor, Democrats are also abusing the blue slip. Minnesota’s two senators Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota EMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Dem pledges to ask all court nominees about sexual harassment history under oath MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota Nielsen says 'possible' Trump used vulgar language in meeting MORE, are currently blocking Eighth Circuit nominee Judge David Stras, while Colorado Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday Trump's 's---hole' controversy shows no sign of easing Dem senator: 'No question' Trump's 's---hole countries' comment is racist MORE is using the blue slip to block highly qualified Judge Allison Eid.

This obstructionism turns the founders’ intent on its head.

Of all the institutions in Washington, D.C., the Senate is, perhaps, the one with the greatest sense of “self,” and its special place in history. In addressing whether or not a Senate was even necessary in the newly-formed government, the founders argued that a Senate was essential for the stable functioning of government, and, far from duplicating the work of the House of Representatives, that the Senate would fulfill a unique set of tasks, separate and distinct from the House’s functions.

The founders devised the Senate to perform a special balancing act. On the one hand, the Senate was expected to be the “brakes” on the passions of the House (George Washington is said to have compared the Senate to a saucer that cools tea, much the way the Senate is intended to temper the legislation that originates in the House), while also performing a vital role necessary for the healthy functioning of government – including, importantly, fulfilling the exclusive role of providing advice and consent to the president’s nominees.

The founders had envisioned the Senate as the “anchor of government,” and the “necessary fence” (a term James Madison coined) separating the “fickleness” of the American people from the passion-driven House of Representatives. The Senate, it was argued, would stand above the fray, providing stability and cohesiveness in the government.

But fast forward to Chuck Schumer’s Democratic party today in the minority in the Senate, and the situation is anything but stable. Far from providing stability to the government, Senate Democrats are needlessly and aimlessly blocking both the executive and judicial branches of government.

The Senate is in desperate need of reform so it can once again function as the esteemed chamber it was intended to be. Republican leadership should pursue two easy steps to achieve that reform.

First, eliminate the 30-hour debate allowance. Sen. Lankford has proposed limiting debate to no more than eight hours on presidential nominees, which would significantly speed up the confirmation process, and which makes sense – after all, it’s not the debate that matters, ultimately, it’s the vote.

Second, the blue slip practice, while a pleasant gesture that harkens back to a different era in American politics, has outlived its usefulness. The practice was intended to enhance discussions about nominees — not bring those discussions to a grinding halt.

Those two reforms alone would go a long way toward reforming the Senate and restoring it to its intended role in the government.

In other words, let’s pursue more of Madison’s vision for the Senate, and less of Sen. Schumer’s obstructionist view.

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.


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