The Senate’s dysfunction junction

Posted on May 1, 2018 10:17 am CDT

By Congressman Billy Long,

It’s been more than a year since President Trump was elected to office, yet only a little over 50 percent of his nominees have been confirmed by the Senate. If you compare that number to previous administrations, it’s nothing. Around this time during President Obama’s administration, 79 percent of his nominees had been confirmed. For President George W. Bush that number was 65 percent, President Clinton it was 66 percent and for President George H. W. Bush it was 74 percent. President Trump recently said that at the current pace it will only take nine years to confirm all of his nominees.

No other president has had to deal with this type of gridlock and dysfunction. Not only are nominees being stalled and held up in committees, Senate Democrats are taking it one step further and forcing unnecessary cloture votes, which require 30 hours of debate on the Senate floor. These unnecessary cloture votes include votes on nominees that have unanimous and overwhelming support from both sides, yet are still subject to the 30-hour debate. Using this tool as a weapon rather than what it was intended for, Senate Democrats have forced more cloture votes on President Trump’s nominees in his first year in office than the past four presidents first terms combined.

A recent example of this gridlock and dysfunction is my former colleague, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. More than a year ago, Pompeo was confirmed as director of the CIA by the Senate by a 66-32 vote. Fourteen Senate Democrats voted in favor of his confirmation. However, suddenly these same Democrats had a change of heart during his vetting to be secretary of state. After weeks of silence from Senate Democrats, only three vocalized support for Pompeo. On April 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the confirmation of Pompeo. Every single Democrat voted against his confirmation, with the exception of one who voted present, rather than for or against. Finally, after several weeks of back-and-forth, on April 26, the Senate voted 57-42 to confirm Pompeo as Secretary of State.

Playing politics, especially in a situation like this, is dangerous for U.S. diplomacy. Recently, Sen. Lankford (R-OK) introduced S. Res. 355, which would limit post-cloture debate from 30 hours to eight hours for most nominees, with the exception of Cabinet, Circuit Court and Supreme Court nominees. Previously, the Senate had adopted this during the 113th Congress as a standing rule, but S. Res. 355 would make it permanent.

Like I've said in the past, the American people deserve better. The American people elected President Trump, and it’s time we give his nominees the respect they deserve.

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