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GOP advances proposal to change Senate rules

Republicans are advancing a proposal to change the Senate’s rules to speed up consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE’s nominees.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee on a party-line 10-9 vote passed a resolution on Wednesday from Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (R-Okla.) that would substantially cut down on the amount of debate time needed for hundreds of nominations.

Because Republicans have a one-seat advantage on the committee, they were able to pass the proposal without any support from Democrats.

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Republicans say the change is necessary because Democrats are using the Senate’s rulebook to slow-walk Trump’s picks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Ky.), a member of the committee, said Democats are “wasting the Senate’s time” by dragging out debate time even as lawmakers aren’t actively debating.

“At some point the question is what is a constructive use of the Senate’s time,” he said ahead of the vote.

The proposal is similar to a resolution that passed with bipartisan support in 2013, but only governed the 113th Congress. Democrats were in control of the chamber at the time.

Nominations face up to an additional 30 hours of debate time even after they’ve cleared an initial vote that shows they have the simple majority support needed to pass.

Lankford’s proposal would cut that debate time down from 30 hours to eight hours. It would further cap post-cloture debate time for district court nominations at two hours.

The proposal does have major exemptions: Most Cabinet-level nominees, as well as Supreme Court nominees and circuit court nominees, would still be subjected to the full 30 hours of debate.

The resolution now goes to the full Senate. Republicans could pass the rules change with as few as 60 votes, but that would still require the support of at least nine Democrats.

A group of GOP senators want leadership to go “nuclear” to implement the rules change, a procedure that would let Republicans change the rules with only a simple majority and without the support of Democrats.

McConnell hasn’t publicly weighed in on the option. And Republicans would have little room for error if they wanted to play hardball.

With Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate MORE (R-Ariz.) absent, their majority is effectively limited to 50 votes. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh MORE (R-Maine) has previously said she opposes further changes to the Senate’s rules.

Democrats have publicly fumed over the proposal, accusing Republicans of being overly partisan and casting a “sour note” on unrelated, ongoing negotiations.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic MORE (D-Minn.) said before the vote on Wednesday that the “circumstances were very different [in 2013] than they are today.”

“I feel this is not the right moment to make this permanent change,” she said.