Senate Panel to Consider Rules Change

Resolution would cut debate time on the floor for nominees

Sen. Roy Blunt thinks Democrats are abusing the rules in demanding full debate time on nominees. On Tuesday, the Rules panel will consider a resolution to cut the debate time. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans are readying another rule change to the chamber, this one aimed at reducing the number of hours the chamber debates executive and judicial nominees. 

The Rules and Administration Committee will meet on Tuesday to consider a resolution sponsored by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., that would reduce the time the chamber debates nominees drastically from the current 30 hours after debate is cut off. 

High-ranking executive branch nominees and most judges or justices would get eight hours of post-cloture debate. District court nominees would get two hours of debate time.

Republicans have fumed that their Democratic colleagues have insisted on full debate time for most such nominees, although this week they have yielded time back. 

And it comes at time that the Senate is setting a record for the number of appellate court judges confirmed during a president’s first year

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a former Rules and Administration chairman and now vice chairman of the GOP conference, said Democrats were abusing Senate procedure. “It clearly should not take us a whole week to confirm three people,” Blunt said Tuesday after the weekly caucus meetings.

Blunt said he was frustrated that Democrats are pushing it and that he does not think “the rules to protect the minority" should stay.

There is a slight irony in the GOP complaints. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., held open for more than a year the Supreme Court seat created when Antonin Scalia died so a GOP president could nominate a replacement. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed this year. And in the last Congress, dozens of judicial nominees by President Barack Obama languished without a hearing under GOP control. 

Lankford introduced his legislation on Dec. 7. 

It would be just the latest change to Senate tradition and longstanding rules in the last few months, and years. 

Republicans pushed through a rules change to cut the number of votes required to cut off debate for considering a Supreme Court nominee earlier this year. In 2013, Democrats pushed through a change that lowered the threshold to cut off debate on executive and judicial nominees. 

Ed Pesce contributed to this story. 

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