White House, Schumer Clash Over Confirmation Votes

Administration raises scepter of special session for nomination votes

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (left), D-N.Y., discusses Senate Republicans’ health care bill with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in the Capitol on June 22. On Monday, he fired back after the White House accused him of unjustly blocking its nominations. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House and Senate Democratic leaders clashed on Monday about what Trump administration officials are calling “unprecedented” blocking tactics of nominees from Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer — a charge the Senate Democratic leader scoffed at. 

Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, accused Senate Democrats of “conducting the slowest confirmation process in American history” and Schumer of running “an unprecedented campaign of obstruction.”

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His comments came minutes after the White House, in a statement first email-blasted then handed out to reporters in the briefing room, charged Senate Democrats with “needless obstruction,” saying they are “refusing to confirm qualified nominations.”

Democrats are attempting to “obstruct the will of the American people and the President’s agenda,” according to the statement.

Just as White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was wrapping the briefing, Schumer’s press office fired off its own statement that pinned the blame for the slow pace of getting senior officials confirmed back on the Trump administration. The minority leader’s statement listed nearly 30 Trump nominations that arrived on Capitol Hill without the proper paperwork.

Then Schumer himself addressed the matter on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

“No administration in recent memory has been slower in sending nominations to the Senate,” he said, noting the lack of ethics documents and other pieces of information.

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 “We can’t go forward until that happens,” Schumer said. “That’s almost unprecedented in its degree. Time and time again they’ve stalled on providing committees the information needed. … It’s typical of the Trump administration: Do something wrong and blame someone else for your problem.”

By the White House’s own count, Trump has sent 197 nominations for positions at federal departments and agencies to the Senate, which has confirmed 48. By the time of former President Barack Obama’s first August recess in 2009, the Senate had confirmed 69 percent of his 454 nominations for federal posts, according to the statement.

The White House on Monday did not offer an explanation as to why it has sent 257 fewer nominations for jobs in agencies and departments to Capitol Hill than its predecessor at a comparable point in its first year. The White House has dramatically picked up the pace of its nominations in June — so much so that a backlog of nominees is forming.

Part of the White House’s message was the slow pace is preventing the administration from getting qualified nominees into important national security jobs.

To that end, Short did not say Trump is considering a special session during the August recess so more confirmation votes for the Pentagon and other security agencies could be held.

But, notably, he did tell reporters doing so would be within the authorities of the presidency because, as he put it, Democrats’ tactics are threatening national security.

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