Under the leadership of Senators Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, James Lankford, and Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans have been confirming judges at record pace. Democrats have not tried to substantively oppose most nominees (maybe because they are so well qualified) but have attempted to use obscure Senate procedures to do so. An example was the “cloture rule:”
This involves Rule 22, which provides a time consuming process to end debate, a necessary step before the Senate can vote on confirmation. Under Rule 22, even when the Senate votes to end debate, there can be up to 30 more hours of consideration. In the past, the minority party cooperated to informally schedule a final confirmation vote. Today, Democrats will not cooperate on anything, forcing the Senate to use this drawn out process for nearly every nomination, including those with no actual opposition.
The Senate has taken six times as many of these unnecessary cloture votes as during the same period under the previous nine presidents combined. You read that right. Even though the Senate votes to end debate every time, Democrats insist that the clock keep running for those 30 hours of debate after cloture. Even worse, they almost never spend time on the Senate floor actually debating these nominations.
As Tom Jipping further details, under the leadership of Senators McConnell and Lankford they eliminated that procedure:
Something has to give, and here is what Republicans have done. Senator James Lankford introduced Resolution 50 in February to reduce the available debate time after cloture to two hours for nominees to the United States District Court, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and most executive branch positions. The limit would remain at 30 hours for the rest. That is a rather modest response to this part of the systematic obstruction strategy of the Democrats. In fact, it is almost identical to a rule the Senate adopted during the 113th Congress by a vote of 78 to 16.
Last week, Democrats filibustered Resolution 50 to prevent the Senate from even considering it. They agreed to this reform in 2013, when a Democrat was in the White House, but oppose it now with a Republican president. As the Senate invoked cloture on the next executive and the next judicial nominee on the calendar, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a point of order that debate would be limited to two hours, and the Senate voted to ratify that position and establish the precedent.
Thank you to Senate Republicans. But the Senate Democrats are not done obstructing. Last week the Democrats had a fit over another potential obstruction tool, the “blue slip.” The blue slip for most Senate Judiciary Chairs of both parties has meant a chance for a home state Senator of the nominee to meaningfully be consulted before a nominee is announced. Of course, Democrats now want to use that to obstruct, delay, or reject qualified nominees to say that a nomination cannot go forward unless such slips are returned. This is a just another petty political or dilatory tactic that only a few Judiciary Chairs have allowed to be used to block nominees and thankfully Judiciary Chairman Graham is having none of it.
But don’t take our word on "blue slips" being weaponized; listen to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the Senate floor:
For those who do not know what the blue slip is, it is a process by which a Member can essentially blackball a judge from his or her State when that Member has some reason to do so. Why would I object so much? I object so much because there is a history of this kind of thing.
Historically, many private clubs and organizations have enabled their board of directors to deliver what is called a blackball to keep out someone they don't want in their club or organization. We all know it has happened. For some of us, it has even happened to us.
The usual practice was, and still is in instances, to prevent someone of a different race or religion from gaining access to that organization or club.
This is essentially what the blue slip process is all about. The U.S. Senate is not a private institution. We are a public democracy. I have come to believe the blue slip should hold no place in this body. . . .
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I believe our duty is either to confirm or reject a nominee based on an informed judgment that he or she is either fit or not fit to serve; to listen to concerns and responses, to examine the evidence presented at a hearing, and to have a rationale for determining whether or not an individual nominee should serve as a district court judge or circuit court judge or even a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. That duty, in my view, leaves no room for a secret block on nominees by any Member which prevents their hearing and confirmation.
Of course she said this on June 29, 2001, but we could not agree with her more. Thank you, Senate Republicans, for your efforts to confirm President Trump’s qualified judicial nominees and for fighting back against obstructionist Democrats.