Senate

GOP advances proposal to change Senate rules

Greg Nash

Republicans are advancing a proposal to change the Senate’s rules to speed up consideration of President Trump’s nominees.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee on a party-line 10-9 vote passed a resolution on Wednesday from Sen. James Lankford (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 McConnell (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 McCain (R-Ariz.) absent, their majority is effectively limited to 50 votes. Sen. Susan Collins (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 Klobuchar (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. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar Donald Trump James Lankford John McCain Mitch McConnell Susan Collins

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