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 BluntOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration 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 TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE’s nominees after discussing the idea at a retreat earlier this month. 

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Election security funds passed by Senate seen as welcome first step 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 YoungPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution Lawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing 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.