GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees

GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees

Republicans are pushing forward with a proposal to speed up the Senate's consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo to outline post-deal strategy on Iran Trump asking aides whether he should proceed with North Korea summit: report Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all MORE's nominees. 

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is expected to vote next week on a resolution from Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees Rescissions package could tie lawmakers' hands on funding bills Conservatives, White House pressure McConnell for longer Senate work hours MORE (R-Okla.) that would cut down on the amount of debate time for hundreds of Trump's picks. 
 
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Mo.), the newly appointed chairman of the panel, has scheduled a vote on Lankford's resolution for Wednesday
 
A spokesman for Lankford confirmed that the proposal will get a vote. 
 
Republicans have been privately mulling the rules change for more than a year, arguing that Democrats are using the Senate's rulebook to slow walk Trump's nominations. 

Currently, a nomination has to have an additional 30 hours of debate time after clearing an initial procedural hurdle. The requirement allows opponents to stretch out consideration of one pick for days. 

But Lankford's proposal would cut the debate time from 30 hours to eight hours after a nominee has cleared a procedural hurdle that shows they have the simple majority support needed to ultimately be confirmed. 
 
It would go even further for district court nominees, capping the amount of post-cloture debate time at two hours.  

The proposal would be similar to a provision from a 2013 resolution on limiting debate for most nominations. But that proposal only governed the 113th Congress. Democrats at the time held the majority in the Senate.

Lankford's resolution also includes some major exemptions to the rules change. 
 
For example, it would keep the 30 hours intact for nominations to positions included in "level one of the executive schedule," which include department secretaries and other top positions such as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
 
It would also keep the 30 hours of debate for Supreme Court nominees or Circuit Court nominees. 
 
The committee vote comes as Republicans are under growing pressure to quickly confirm Trump's picks. 
 
Trump lashed out at Democrats this week for "obstructing the process" and urged the Senate not to leave "until our Ambassadors, Judges and the people who make Washington work are approved."
 
"Democrats are obstructing good (hopefully great) people wanting to give up a big portion of their life to work for our Government, hence, the American People. They are 'slow walking' all of my nominations - hundreds of people. At this rate it would take 9 years for all approvals!" he said in a separate tweet.
It takes Trump's nominees an average of 85 days to be confirmed, according to a tracker by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service. That's 20 days longer than former President Obama's nominees and roughly 40 days longer than former President George W. Bush's. 
 
Trump has also had 395 nominations confirmed, compared to 548 for Obama at this point in his presidency. Another 205 of Trump's picks are stuck in the Senate pipeline. 
 
 
He threatened last week to keep the Senate in session into Friday or even the weekend in order to clear a slate of six nominations. 
 
"Senate Democrats are using the procedural playbook to obstruct and delay," he said at the time.
 
With Republicans increasingly anxious about their chances of holding on to the chamber, where they have a fragile 51-seat majority, they're pointing to their ability to confirm Trump's nominees as a key reason they should retain power after the midterms.
 
“Even if we were to lose the House and be stymied legislatively, we could still approve appointments, which is a huge part of what we do,” McConnell told the Kentucky Today editorial board.
 
Lankford's proposal is likely to pass the committee on Wednesday after getting a positive reception from the GOP members of the panel during a hearing in December. 
 
"Certainly Republicans have every right to be offended by the way the rules have been abused to use up floor time, and I think a number of our colleagues on the other side are also concerned," Blunt told The Hill late last month. 
 
Because Republicans have a majority on the panel they would be able to send the rule change to the full Senate without help from Democrats. 
 
A Senate aide noted while there had been "very positive talks" with Democrats "it remains to be seen how many will actually vote with us when it’s time to vote." 
 
 
A spokesperson for Klobuchar didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday about if she would support Lankford's proposal during the vote next week. 
 
But Democrats appeared skeptical, or unsupportive, of the rules change during a hearing late last year. 
 
“I just feel this is not the right moment to make these changes as the rule,” Klobuchar said at the time. “This change would only add to the partisan atmosphere.”
 
Democrats argue there's a key difference between the 2013 and approving such a proposal now: The Senate has gone "nuclear" on nominations. 
 
Senate Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.), nixed the 60-vote filibuster for executive nominations and lower-court nominations in 2013, arguing Republicans were stonewalling Obama’s court picks.

Republicans, in turn, got rid of the 60-vote procedural hurdle for Supreme Court picks after Democrats rejected Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch.
 
What happens after the committee approves the rule change is unclear. 
 
small group of conservative senators wants leadership to go "nuclear" and approve the change by only a simple majority. 
 
But with a narrow majority, leadership could have a hard time mustering the votes. Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain How House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe MORE (R-Ariz.) has been absent from Washington for months and previously voiced opposition to the plan. 
 
 
If Republicans could get support from Democrats — potentially a herculean task in an election year — they could try to change the rules with either 67 or 60 votes, depending on the scenario. 
 
"Privately, many Democrats realize this is a very bad precedent that could come back to bite them if and when they win back the White House," the Senate aide added. 
 
Asked what happens on the Senate floor, Blunt demurred: "We'll see. We'll see." 
 
Blunt hinted that Republicans could want to implement it as a standing order, adding they would see "what we might be able to do with 60 votes."