Political maneuvering puts governing on hold
By Roger Wicker
July 18, 2017
I welcome the recent announcement that the Senate will remain in session during the August weeks traditionally dedicated to state work. For months, Democrats have been using procedural tactics to stall the legislative process. Until Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) returns to our traditional practice of cooperation on scheduling, the Senate will have no choice but to remain in Washington to complete important work.
Perhaps nowhere has Democrats’ obstruction been more glaring than in the protracted process of confirming President Trump’s executive nominees. By July 10 of this year, the Senate had confirmed only 23 percent of President Trump’s nominees, compared with the 69 percent of President Obama’s nominees confirmed by the August of his first year in office. Even nominees who have eventually been confirmed with a near-unanimous vote were first subjected to days and days of needless delay.
Such political maneuvering is not only a departure from past practice under Democratic administrations, but it also ignores the wishes of the American people. They expect the president they elected to be able to choose who will help lead his administration. These expectations are not radical, given the bipartisan cooperation on executive appointments in the past.
In the months following President Obama’s inauguration, the Senate confirmed nearly all of his nominees by a simple voice vote. And yet, only 10 percent of President Trump’s nominees have been approved this way. Earlier this year, Democrats forced a historically slow confirmation of the President’s Cabinet, going so far as to boycott committee hearings with his nominees. To put these stall tactics into perspective, no other U.S. president since George Washington has had to wait as long as President Trump did for his Cabinet to be filled.
These delays disrupt the Senate’s constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” on executive appointments. But they also threaten the vitality of our government and the services it provides, including national security. President Trump needs his full national security team in place to keep our nation safe, support our veterans, and secure our borders. However, only six of his 22 nominations to the Department of Defense have been confirmed. The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security face a similar shortage of presidential appointees.
The next few weeks should proceed without the obstruction of the past few months. In addition to confirming nominees, the Senate has a number of important legislative items to consider that will have an impact on American lives and the well-being of our communities. That includes legislation to bring life-saving drug research to patients and the passage of the annual defense authorization bill to ensure our troops have the resources they need at home and abroad. Congress also faces tough decisions about federal spending and the urgent task of repealing and replacing the collapsing Obamacare system.
Senate Democrats should put politics aside to address these items of national importance. The political theater needs to end. There is too much work to be done.