Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand

Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand
© Getty Images

The senators who are most likely to reject President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE's nominees are the very ones who want to challenge him in 2020.

The Hill's review of 2 ½ years of vote totals shows Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll 2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day Sanders takes lead in new Hill/HarrisX poll MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandClinton to honor Ginsburg at fashion designer's awards show Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say MORE (I-Vt.) voted against more Trump nominees than any other senator.

At the same time, Republicans voted virtually in lockstep for Trump's nominees; the average GOP senator backed 99 percent of his picks, and the one who went rogue most often — Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) — still voted to confirm 93 percent of his nominees.


Trump's picks to fill positions in his administration and the judiciary illustrate an increasingly partisan divide in the Senate between Republicans who vote to confirm almost every nominee and Democrats who reject the vast majority.

The average Democrat has voted to confirm just 38 percent of Trump's nominees.

And that number has been falling in recent months.

In the 115th Congress, the average Democrat backed roughly 39 percent of Trump's nominees. In the first six months of the 116th Congress, that number fell to 34 percent, according to data provided by Quorum Analytics, a public affairs data firm.

This year, leading the charge against Trump's nominees are many of the candidates who are running against him in 2020.

Warren and Gillibrand have voted in favor of just 11 percent of Trump's nominees over the last 2 ½ years. The two Democrats have voted to confirm only six of his judicial nominees — all in the 115th Congress. This year, they have voted to confirm just three of Trump's nominees, including two members of the Export-Import Bank and a member of the Federal Highway Administration.


Sanders has voted to confirm only 12 percent of Trump's nominees, but he has not voted to confirm a single Trump nominee this year. Sanders even opposed the three nominees Warren and Gillibrand voted to confirm.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe CNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor How the media fall in and out of love with candidates MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe CNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor Bloomberg qualifies for South Carolina primary debate MORE (D-N.J.) have voted in favor of 17 percent and 15 percent of Trump's nominees, respectively. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe What to watch in the debate tonight MORE (D-Minn.) has voted to confirm 38 percent of those nominees, putting her in line with the average Senate Democrat.

But in what may be a sign of just how important opposing Trump is to the Democratic base, Klobuchar's voting record changed noticeably in the run-up to her decision to enter the presidential field. In the 115th Congress, she voted to confirm 84 of Trump's 180 nominees, or about 47 percent. In this Congress, she has voted to confirm fewer than one in 10 nominees.

"For people who seek the nomination, opposing Trump and in particular conservative judges will be a positive for party activists," said Sarah Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet2020 race goes national in sprint to Super Tuesday Toward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump seeks split-screen moments in early primary states MORE (D-Colo.), another 2020 contender, has voted to confirm half of Trump's nominees, more than all but seven other members of the Democratic caucus.

Those seven members who have voted to confirm more than half of Trump's nominees reflect the centrist flank, whose ranks were thinned in 2018 when former Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE (D-N.D.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' Kansas City, Kan., responds to Trump tweet: We root for the Chiefs, too Trump mocked for Super Bowl tweet confusing Missouri for Kansas MORE (D-Mo.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (D-Ind.) all lost their reelection bids.

The centrist coalition is anchored by two Democrats who won reelection in red states last year: Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (D-W.Va.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (D-Mont.). Manchin has voted to approve three-quarters of Trump's nominees. Tester has voted for 55 percent of those nominees.

A new member, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), has so far voted to approve two-thirds of Trump's nominees.

Sens. Angus KingAngus KingOcasio-Cortez defends Sanders running as a Democrat: It's 'more than what you call yourself' Use of voting tabulation apps raise red flags on Capitol Hill Patrick Dempsey to star in pilot for CBS political drama 'Ways and Means' MORE (I-Maine), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony US prosecutors bring new charges against China's Huawei MORE (D-Va.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperConsensus forming for ambitious climate goal: Net zero pollution Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Democratic senator gives EPA a D-minus on implementing PFAS action plan MORE (D-Del.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.) have all voted for more than half of Trump's nominees, the data shows.

Fifteen Republican senators have never voted against one of Trump's nominees, and five senators — Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics MORE (R-Ky.), Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs MORE (R-Texas) and Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices MORE (R-Ariz.), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump Fed nominee stirs controversy ahead of hearing Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-N.D.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Senators press NCAA on compensation for college athletes Overnight Defense: Inside Trump's 4B Pentagon budget | Highlights include .4B for Space Force, preview of Air Force One paint job | Senate eyes Wednesday debate on Iran war powers | 109 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries from attack MORE (R-Miss.) — have never missed a vote on a Trump nominee.

Paul, the Republican outlier, has voted against 16 Trump nominees, more than any other member of his party.

The partisan divide over presidential nominations reflects a long-term trend toward what activists in both parties see as increasingly high-stakes positions.

The vast majority of nominations confirmed by the Senate in the first two centuries of American history did not even require roll call votes, because significant opposition was so rare, said Binder.

But in the past three decades, those roll call votes have become increasingly frequent as judicial nominees in particular became important to party activists, first on the Republican side and now among Democrats too.

"We don't often have recorded roll call votes routinely until you hit the '90s, when you had Republican reactions to [former President] Clinton's nominees," Binder said. "There was much less opposition. Not to say that there was no opposition, but judges hadn't become such a cause for Republicans."

The Trump administration has faced a particularly divided Senate, in part because Trump nominated so few candidates for low-level and noncontroversial positions, said Terry Sullivan, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina and executive director of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan advisory group.

Trump offered fewer nominees in his first two years in office than former Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama did in their first 12 months. He also announced and then withdrew more nominees than the last five presidents combined. Those he did nominate tended to be for more high-profile positions that are more likely to start partisan fights.

But the polarization of the nominating process long predated Trump. It has been exacerbated in recent years as separate Senate majorities have changed the rules to reduce the number of votes a given nominee needs to achieve to advance, Sullivan said.

The most recent rules change, lowering the threshold at which Supreme Court nominees could reach cloture, further removed incentives for any administration to reach bipartisan consensus.

"In order to get some nominees through the process that would previously not [have] managed to get through, the Senate majority has taken a dramatic swing to the right, moving the average Senate confirmation much closer to its own right wing and away from the majoritarian middle among the Senators," Sullivan said.