To save the Senate, GOP should shut down Democrats
© Getty Images

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade A Biden stumble on China? 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 LankfordSenate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be 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 FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' Schumer: Allegations against Cuomo 'serious, very troubling' MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharAlarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears Raimondo has won confirmation, but the fight to restrict export technology to China continues Pentagon prevented immediate response to mob, says Guard chief MORE, are currently blocking Eighth Circuit nominee Judge David Stras, while Colorado Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package Democrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs 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.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.