Senate Rules panel could advance plan to cut debate time on Trump nominees next week

Republican Sens. Roy Blunt and James Lankford introduced the newest version on Wednesday

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt is expected to bring up the rules change plan next week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans are moving ahead with an effort to effectively change the rules, reducing the amount of debate time allowed on many lower-level nominations by President Donald Trump.

The resolution, which has been championed by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., was being reintroduced Wednesday. It’s expected to be marked up by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee next week, according to a person familiar with the scheduling.

During the last Congress, Lankford sought to revive and make a permanent standing order on reduced debate time that was in effect in 2013 and 2014.

That temporary deal was bipartisan. It cut the time for post-cloture debate to eight hours for most executive branch posts, as well as just two hours for nominees to be district judges.

Under the new resolution’s standing order, debate time for district judges and covered executive branch positions would be two hours, equally divided between the two parties — significantly speeding up the process.

Even nominations that are not covered could be sped up, with the longer post-cloture debate time being equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Lankford said in a recent interview that he hoped at least some of the Democratic senators who are running for president in 2020 might be convinced to sign on, in an attempt to ease the burden of the confirmation process for their own nominees.

Republicans have continually expressed frustration about the pace of processing the more routine nominations that Trump sent to Capitol Hill.

“It only takes one senator to request a cloture vote, and so it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be at least one Republican that would look at each of those different nominees that come up, after what was done for four years to a Republican president,” Lankford said.

One of those Democratic senators is Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who currently serves as ranking member on the Rules panel. She is scheduled to announce her 2020 plans on Sunday.

Sen. Roy Blunt, the chairman of the Rules and Administration panel, has joined Lankford in introducing the new resolution.

“Over and over again, Senate Democrats have demanded cloture votes only to spend little to no time debating the nominees, many of whom were ultimately confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan support. This has been nothing more than obstruction for the sake of obstruction and it is outrageous,” the Missouri Republican said in a statement. “This resolution will get the Senate back to functioning as it should under the Constitution — in its role of advice and consent.”

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