Senate GOP set to advance rules change for Trump nominees next week

 Senate GOP set to advance rules change for Trump nominees next week
© Anna Moneymaker
Senate Republicans are poised to advance a resolution next week to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to confirm hundreds of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE's nominees as Republicans mull going "nuclear" to muscle through the change.
 
 
Currently, nominees are subjected to up to 30 hours of additional debate after proving they have the simple majority needed to defeat a filibuster and be confirmed.
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A spokeswoman for Blunt confirmed that the Rules Committee is expected to vote on the proposed change next week. Because Republicans hold a majority on the panel, the measure is expected to easily be approved and be sent to the full Senate.
 
Blunt, in a statement, lashed out at Senate Democrats for forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.) to eat up days of Senate floor time on a nomination only to ultimately support them.
 
“This has been nothing more than obstruction for the sake of obstruction and it is outrageous," Blunt said.
 
Lankford added that the resolution would permanently reduce the amount of post-cloture debate time for most nominees and allow nominations to "function appropriately again.”
  
To implement the rules change as a standing order, which Lankford says is his preference, he'll need support from at least seven Democrats to get the 60 votes needed. 
 
But Republicans have also said, absent bipartisan cooperation, they could use the "nuclear" option to force through the rules change with only a simple majority.
 
McConnell didn't tip his hand after a closed-door GOP lunch this week but said that Republicans have their "hands full" trying to clear the administration's appointments. 
 
"As I've said before, there is times for obstruction. I've engaged in it myself. It depends on what you're obstructing. If it's something big and important, understandable. If you're just trying to sand through sand in the gear so the administration can't function, unacceptable," McConnell said.
 
Republicans have for years floated cutting down on the amount of time it takes to clear a nominee, but faced pushback from Democrats and even some members of their own party
 
Now, the GOP's expanded 53-seat majority in the Senate gives them more leeway to muscle through their proposal. 
  
The measure released Wednesday goes further than a similar resolution introduced by Lankford during the previous Congress. 
 
Under the previous proposal, debate time for only district court nominations would have been reduced from 30 hours to two hours, while most executive nominees would have been reduced from 30 hours of debate to eight hours. 
 
Under the resolution introduced Wednesday, most executive nominees would only be required to have two hours of debate after the Senate breaks a filibuster. 
 
Most Cabinet-level positions are exempted under the proposed rules change and would still be subjected to up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
 
The Senate is expected to take up William Barr's attorney general nomination this month and has a swath of other Cabinet fights waiting, including Trump's decision to nominate David Bernhardt to be the secretary of the Interior.
 
The Blunt-Lankford resolution also includes carve out for roughly a dozen boards and commissions including the Federal Elections Commission and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Similar to the 2017 resolution, the new measure would also exclude Supreme Court justices and influential circuit court picks. 
 
The new resolution comes as Republicans have fumed for months, accusing Democrats of using the chamber's rulebook to drag out any nomination, even if it's not controversial.  
 
Republicans discussed changing the rules during a caucus retreat late last month. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Cuban negotiator says Trump's efforts to destabilize Cuba's government will fail Freedom to Compete Act would benefit many American workers MORE (R-Fla.) said after the GOP retreat that “there are a lot of members that would like to see the debate time, post-cloture, lowered from 30 hours.”
 
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.
 
But Democrats have publicly pushed back against efforts by Republicans to change the rules during the Trump administration, arguing it would only add to the increasingly partisan fight over nominations. 
 
No Democrats supported the measure when it came up for a vote in the Rules Committee last year.