When it comes to ties, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows who to turn to. And turn to. And turn to. That would be Vice President Mike Pence, who has already broken more ties in his one year in office than Dick Cheney did in eight years.
McConnell even joked last week at the Republican retreat in West Virginia — where Pence was the keynote speaker at a dinner — that the vice president was “well on his way to breaking the most tiebreakers in Senate history.”
The Senate prides itself on being the world’s greatest deliberative body, but that doesn’t mean one can say just anything. In fact, if you say something out of bounds, a colleague can invoke a rule that forces you to sit down and be quiet.
This dynamic came into focus over the weekend. As shutdown tensions ran high, Rule 19 was pulled out for a fresh reading as a reminder about the chamber’s standards for decorum.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his leadership time on Monday to criticize Democrats for making 2017 “an historic year of partisan obstruction” by using the full 30 hours of debate permitted under the rules on nominations. But McConnell’s complaint, echoed by other senior Republicans and President Donald Trump, comes as those same leaders have been trumpeting their success in confirming a record number of 12 federal circuit court judges to the bench, as well as the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
The Kentucky Republican and his allies say the Democrats are purposely gumming up the works to prevent Trump from staffing the executive and judicial branches. McConnell pointed to his having to file procedural cloture motions to limit debate on the four pending district court nominations that members are considering in the chamber this week.
Senators face a lengthy list of President Donald Trump’s judicial picks, but consideration of the nominees could be affected by three significant factors: an extensive backlog of vacancies, Republican leaders’ willingness to continue altering chamber traditions, and the Democrats’ lack of motivation to aid GOP efforts to remake the judiciary.
There are 121 vacancies at the U.S. District Court level and an additional 21 vacancies on federal appeals courts, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Senators are heading home for summer break, after a health care implosion highlighted the partisan ill will that’s festered all year. Ed Pesce, who edits CQ’s Senate coverage, explains how hardline GOP procedural tactics have taken the chamber to a new low, and what could get civil deliberations back on track.
The Supreme Court gets all the attention, but President Donald Trump could make lasting changes to the judicial branch in trying to fill the more than 100 U.S. District Court vacancies. The next judicial nomination up for consideration on the Senate floor would fill a spot in Idaho that has been open for some time, and the nominee has some bipartisan support as he has also been previously nominated by a Democratic president.
Before the recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lined up consideration of David Nye to be U.S. district judge for the District of Idaho. This isn’t his first trip through the nomination machine, as he was put forward last year by President Barack Obama for the same position.
President Donald Trump with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. (CQ Roll Call/File Photo)
After a series of fits and starts, the Senate is starting to clear a path so it can consider legislation dismantling Obamacare, say CQ Roll Call’s Jason Dick and Ed Pesce. They review how the Senate got there and what’s next.
The Senate is waiting for hundreds of high-profile nominations to lead the federal government and the U.S. court system, but it might be a long time before any of those people settle into their new jobs, says CQ Roll Call’s Senior Legislative Analyst Ed Pesce. Many must wade through the Senate’s approval process and that could turn the chamber into a "full-time confirmation machine,'' squeezing time needed for legislation.
Since the beginning of the 115th Congress, the Senate has operated in a procedural bubble, where Republicans can largely move nominations and legislation with simple majorities on the floor.
That has been the case for votes on the latest slate of Cabinet-level nominations that included confirmations of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to be Interior secretary, Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be Energy secretary.
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