Senators fume over fight to change rules for Trump's nominees
© Greg Nash

Senators are upping their rhetorical warfare as Republicans prepare to advance a proposal that would change the rules to expedite their consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s nominees.

The Rules and Administration Committee is scheduled to vote this week on a proposal from Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordEthics experts ask Senate to investigate Graham's probe of mail-in voting The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-Okla.) that would substantially cut down on the required debate time for hundreds of the president’s picks.

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But Democrats are fuming ahead of the vote, accusing Republicans of playing “partisan politics” and casting a “a sour note” over other unrelated, bipartisan negotiations.

“The Cabinet is turning into a sad game of musical chairs, and the American people are losing out. … Senator Lankford’s proposal is misguided, it is wrong, it couldn’t be put forward at a worse possible time,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (D-Del.) added that he knows Lankford but “this is not a well-thought-out proposal. I think we can do better than that.”

Currently, nominations face up to an additional 30 hours of debate on the Senate floor even after they’ve cleared an initial hurdle that shows they have the support to pass, allowing opponents to eat up days of time.

But Lankford’s proposal would cut the required debate time from 30 hours down to eight hours for hundreds of nominees. It would further cap post-cloture debate time for district judges at two hours.

The proposal would mirror a provision from a 2013 resolution on limiting debate for most nominations during the 113th Congress. Democrats at the time held the majority in the Senate.

But Lankford’s rule change includes major exemptions: Most Cabinet-level nominees, Supreme Court nominees and circuit court nominees would still be subjected to the full 30 hours of debate.

Republicans have been privately mulling the rules change for more than a year but are under increasing pressure from both their base and Trump to speed up their consideration of White House nominations.

“The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!” Trump said in a tweet this week.

As of late last week, Trump has gotten 395 nominations confirmed with an average time frame of 85 days from nomination to confirmation, according to a tracker by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service

Trump has another 205 nominees stuck somewhere in the Senate’s backlog, according to the tracker.

Republicans argue they have to change the rules because Democrats are using the rulebook to slow walk Trump’s picks.

“Today we have a historic new precedent that’s been set for any president coming in. That was absolutely not done by Republicans in the past. … But it is being done right now,” Lankford said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerMark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (R-Colo.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, referred to Democrats’ tactics as “procedural sabotage.”

But 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.

“I think we anticipate a largely partisan vote to get the bill out of committee but we will get it out of committee,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Congress faces late-year logjam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Barr splits with Trump on election; pardon controversy MORE (R-Mo.), the newly appointed chairman of the Rules Committee.

Democrats argue there's a key difference between the 2013 resolution and approving a proposal now: The Senate has gone "nuclear" on nominations.

Senate Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.), nixed the 60-vote filibuster for executive nominations and lower-court nominations in 2013, arguing that 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.

Schumer fired back at Lankford during a weekly leadership press conference, saying “history is only partially being remembered.”

“I didn’t hear three words when Senator Lankford spoke on the floor,” he said. “Blue slip, 60 votes, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report MORE.”