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 BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad 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 John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s nominees after discussing the idea at a retreat earlier this month. 

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden camp feels boost after Detroit debate 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 YoungOvernight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale GOP chairman yanks Saudi bill after Democrats muscle through tougher language 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.