Senate Republicans Press Ahead With Plan to Speed Up Confirmations

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Republicans are pushing ahead with a plan to dramatically speed confirmation of most of President Donald Trump’s nominations, blaming Democratic obstruction for lengthy delays that sap floor time.

Rules Chairman Roy Blunt and Republican James Lankford have proposed a measure that would limit debate on most nominees to just two hours of floor time, with Blunt planning to push the rules change through his committee Wednesday. Major nominations such as cabinet officials, circuit court judges and Supreme Court picks would still have up to 30 hours of debate before a final vote.

Blunt said Tuesday the Democratic minority has abused their right to demand 30 hours of debate and it’s time to change the rules as a result.

"With President Trump, it’s been 55 days from the time we get a nominee out of committee until the Democrats finally will allow that nominee to come to the floor," Blunt said. Blunt also said Democrats have forced 128 votes to cut off debate on nominees in the last Congress despite many of those nominees getting 70 votes or more.

Blunt also complained that rarely did the hours of debate forced by Democrats result in actual floor debate on the nominees themselves.

"It is clearly an attempt just to use up time to not let the president have the team he needs in place to run the government and not to let us have the legislative time we need," Blunt said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would oppose the rules change without concessions to Democrats.

"Unless they go back to 60 votes or restore the blue slips, either one, then there’s a reason to move along," said Schumer of New York. "Not if they have monopoly power."

Senate Republicans have angered Democrats by repeatedly violating a "blue slip" tradition of only moving forward with judicial nominations when home-state senators sign off on their selection. Democrats also complained when McConnell and Republicans eliminated the 60-vote threshold for ending filibusters on Supreme Court nominees -- years after Democrats did the same for other nominations.

If Democrats don’t agree to the changes, many Republicans said they are prepared to change the rules by a majority vote. Republicans and Democrats have previously used a simple majority, known as the "nuclear option," to change the rules for confirming nominations.

The move would free up time to fulfill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top priority: confirming as many conservative judges as possible.

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