Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a stickler for the rules. He spent the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency pushing back on pressure to invoke the nuclear option for legislation. At the same time, McConnell only has a limited vein of patience, and the Democrats have finally tapped it dry.
With their historic obstruction in the Senate, Democrats have kept more than a hundred federal court seats open by taking advantage of the rules of cloture debate. Progress on both Judicial and Executive Branch nominations has slowed to a grinding crawl, preventing this president from exercising his constitutional right to staff up his administration and reshape the courts as he sees fit.
On Wednesday, McConnell pulled the trigger, using the fabled nuclear option to reduce the number of hours the Senate can debate on a nominee after cloture from 30 hours down to two. The hope is that this rule change will clear the way for more than 130 District Court vacancies to finally be filled.
Democrats were, naturally, milking this for all it was worth. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was “so sorry that my Republican colleagues have gone along with Sen. McConnell’s debasement of the Senate.” He said that the rule change was “disgraceful” and amounted to a “sad day in the Senate’s history.”
We didn’t see too many senators crying on their way out of the Capitol building, to be honest.
By the way, the two measures – one on judiciary appointments and one on executive nominees – both passed the Senate 51-48. Republicans Mike Lee and Susan Collins voted with the Democrats. Apparently Lisa Murkowski didn’t get the memo.
“It is time for this sorry chapter to end,” McConnell said of the Democrats’ obstruction. “It’s time to return this body to a more normal and reasonable process for fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities no matter which party controls the White House.”
In the left-wing media, there has of course been a lot of discussion about Merrick Garland. A lot of talk about McConnell’s decision to use the nuclear option to confirm Supreme Court nominees. There has been far less talk about the fact that Democrat Harry Reid was the first one to invoke the nuclear option for judiciary nominees, and there has been even less consideration of just how unprecedented the Democrats’ behavior has been for the last two years.
McConnell himself laid out the case in an op-ed for Politico:
Across the first two years of each of the six presidents preceding President Trump, the Senate only had to hold 24 total cloture votes on nominations. That’s the once-rare procedural step that unlocks an up-or-down confirmation vote even though a minority has sought to block it.
And in President Trump’s first two years? We had to hold a stunning 128 cloture votes to advance nominations. Our Democratic colleagues made the Senate jump over five times as many hurdles as in the equivalent periods in the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations combined.
When Obama was in office, Republicans were regularly tarred as obstructionists by the mainstream media. Go and find anyone at the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any of the other usual suspects saying the same thing about Democrats today. The bias is off the charts.
McConnell’s gambit was not only righteous, it was necessary. It’s time to stop letting the minority party call the shots in Washington.