Fortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to give in to obstruction. He’s insisted that judicial nominees get the confirmation votes they deserve, and he’s invested the floor time necessary to get nominees confirmed. As a result, 55 judges have been confirmed so far this year, compared with 28 during the same period in 2013.
But in the process, day after day is wasted. Under current rules, even after the Senate votes to end debate senators can keep on “debating” for another two hours for every district court nominee, eight hours for most executive branch nominees and 30 hours for nominees for circuit courts and the president’s Cabinet.
And “debating” isn’t really the right word — senators don’t have to use the time to talk about the nominees, or anything at all.
These delays stall confirmation of nominees — many of whom go on to be confirmed unanimously —and prevent the Senate from doing the important business of solving our nation’s problems.
That’s why we and our partners in the Fix the Senate Now coalition think the next step in rules reform should be to require that senators at least use their debate time to actually debate the merits of the nomination before them: In other words — use it or lose it.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.