Senate Republicans Trigger ‘Nuclear Option’ to Speed up Approval of Trump Nominees

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) smiles after addressing reporters following a lunch with Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump joined the senators to talk about upcoming legislation, including the proposed GOP tax cuts and …
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Wednesday invoked the “nuclear option” to reduce the amount of time required to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees.

The rules change limits debate on most nominees to two hours instead of 30. White House selections for the Cabinet, Supreme Court and appeals courts would be exempted from the new rules. Every Democrat opposed the move, joined by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The Senate changed the rules after a debate that featured personal finger-pointing between the chamber’s party leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). They have battled over judicial filibusters since the administration of President George W. Bush.

McConnell said the battles on presidential nominees date back to Schumer-led filibusters of Bush appeals court picks such as Miguel Estrada, whose nomination stalled after a lobbying campaign by liberal judicial activists.

“He started this whole thing that we’ve been wrestling with since 2003, cooked it up, convinced his colleagues to do it,” McConnell said.

“This systematic obstruction is unfair to our duly elected president and, more importantly, it is disrespectful to the American people who deserve the government they elected,” he added. “We cannot set this new precedent that the Senate minorities will systematically keep an administration understaffed down to the least controversial nominees anytime they wish somebody else had won the election.”

In response, Schumer contended McConnell was Machiavellian, cynical and hypocritical.

Schumer, however, supported this step in a 2013 vote orchestrated by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), that eliminated the filibuster on Cabinet nominees and most judicial appointees. The maneuver allows the majority to change the rules on a party-line vote.

“I think we had to convince 51, at least 51, of our members that we’re doing everything possible to try to do this through regular order,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said of the vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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