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Senate GOP plots to advance rule change for Trump picks by March

 Senate GOP plots to advance rule change for Trump picks by March
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are planning to advance a proposal that would dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to advance hundreds of Trump nominees by the end of March.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Microsoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said the Rules Committee, which he oversees, would take up the proposal.

“I’m looking at the first quarter of the year,” Blunt said, asked about a timeline for taking up the change.

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The timeline, which was first reported by Politico, is the latest sign that Republicans are feeling bullish about changing the rules for President TrumpDonald TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE’s nominees after discussing the idea at a retreat earlier this month. 

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Okla.), who is spearheading the proposal, told The Hill that he thought that the Rules Committee would take up the measure in February. 

Currently, 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.

But the proposal being discussed by Republicans would cut the debate time down to eight hours. It would further cap post-cloture debate time for district court nominations at two hours.

"This is going to just keep going and it will hurt the longterm functioning of our government," Lankford said in a separate floor speech on Monday. "We've got to be able to resolve this." 

The proposal, which hasn’t formally been reintroduced in the 116th Congress, would not apply to Supreme Court nominees, circuit court nominees or most Cabinet picks. Lankford is expected to introduce his rules change in the next several days. 

Republicans have been fuming for years over the slow pace of confirmation votes on Trump’s pick, accusing Democrats of misusing the chamber rulebook to drag out otherwise uncontroversial nominees. 

Republicans are expected to try to implement the rules change as a standing order, which would require 60 votes.

Lankford said on Monday that his preference is still that they change the rule with 60 votes, with would require that it be bipartisan.

Asked why he thought he would be able to pick up Democratic votes, Lankford noted that several of his colleagues are running for president and, if they win, they are going to want to get their nominations approved by the Senate. 

"I would hope they're paying attention to the presidential election," Lankford told The Hill. "Several of them, even here, want to win the presidency. If they win the presidency ... that means they can't put a government together either" with the current rule. 

But nominations have become increasingly partisan during the Trump administration and it’s unlikely they would be able to get enough support from Democrats.

If they can’t get Democratic support, Republicans are publicly floating using the “nuclear option”— which would let them change the rules with only a simple majority. 

Republicans held only a 51-49 majority last year, leaving them unable to push through the proposal because of opposition from some moderate members. But a larger 53-47 majority during the current Congress gives them more leeway to muscle through the change. 

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (Ind.), the chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, told radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month that he thought Senate Republicans could quickly take up the maneuver. 

“This needs to happen for the good of the country. And I think there’ll be some Democrats who’ll be warm to this idea as well,” he said at the time. 

—Updated at 6:48 p.m.