tv U.S. Senate Senator Mc Connell on Presidential Nominations CSPAN March 28, 2019 7:26pm-7:48pm EDT
windows closed. >> for almost a week last month, the people of middletown, pennsylvania, lived in fear of an enemy they couldn't see, hear or feel. >> watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> senate majority leader mitch mcconnell talked about changing senate procedure to cut debate on certain nominees from 30 hours to 2. his remarks are followed by minority leader chuck schumer on the president's push to repeal the affordable care act. so, mr. president, i come to the floor to discuss the unprecedented obstruction that has faced president trump's nominees for the past 26 months. and counting. and to announce that the senate is going to do something about it. mr. president, the system mat ific -- systematic, across the board delay and obstruction that have crippled this
administration's nominations is unique in american history. every presidential election since adams beat jefferson in 1796 has left some senators disappointed that their side lost. there's always a losing side. and they're never happy about it. but the past two years have been the first time, mr. president, the first time ever that the unhappy party has used senate procedure to systematically blockade the new president's nominees and prevent him from even staffing up his administration. so let me say that again. since january 2017, for the first time in the 230-year history of the united states senate, a minority of senators have used senate procedure to systematically prevent the president of the unite from put -- of the united states from
putting a full team in place. during the first two years of the last six presidential administrations before president trump, 24 total cloture votes had to be held to advance a nomination. but in president trump's first two years, 128 cloture votes on nominees. for 42 different executive branch positions. cloture votes have been required for the first time in history, first timehe ever. uncontroversial assistant secretaries. agencies' general counselings. never required cloture votes before, ever, until this particular democratic minority. or just compare president trump's first two years to president obama's. overall, we confirmed 22% fewer
nominations for president trump and sent more than twice as many back to the white house. take just the foreign relations committee as one example. the share of nominees sent to the foreign relations committee who were still not confirmed after president trump's first two years was more than three times, three times what it was for president obama. to be clear, the lion's share of all this is not controversial, high-profile figures. in most cases, they're unambiguously well-qualified nominees for critical but lower profile jobs. for example, it took more than six months, six months and several tragic railroad are 45 .
our colleagues on the commerce committee voice voted him out of committee. and actually, when democrats finally allowed the nomination to come on the floor, he was confirmed by voice vote. but despite the fact that nobody actually objected to this nominee, this important job was held empty for six long months. obstruction for obstruction's sake. it's the same story with even the least controversial judicial nominees. last january it took more than a week of floor time m to confirm four district judges, all of whom had been voice voted out of
the judiciary committee the previous autumn. but still months of theys. and then crow -- of delays. and then closure votes were required for each. once we plowed through the confirmation votes, they were all confirmed unanimously. months of delays and procedural roadblocks for four bipartisan follow knee -- nominees whom not a single senator actually opposed. this is not a principled maneuver, not thoughtful use of minority powers. obstruction simply for the sake of obstruction. this historic campaign isn't fair to our duly-elected president, and more importantly, it is not fair to the american people. the american people deserve the government they hecht -- they elected. they deserve for important positions to be promptly filled
with capable individuals, not held open indefinitely out of political spite. and treason an institutional perspective, as we all acknowledge, this is completely unsustainable. but if we allow it to persist, it seems guaranteed to become standard operating procedure for every administration going forward.wa let's assume two years from now my side is in the minority. and this is a democratic party -- and there's a democratic president. if we allow to persist, we'll be doing the same thing to those guys that they've been doing to us. it'll be the new norm. some of our colleagues who are leading this systematic obstruction are actually the running for president themselves. well, these will virtually guarantee that any future democratic administration is
subjected to the same paralysis. everybody will be doing it. is this how american government is supposed to work from here on out? whichever party loses the white house basically prohibits the new president from standing up an administration? we can't accept w this, mr. president. this just can't be allowed to continue. we need to restore the senate to the way it functioned for literally decades. remember the ideaee that nomines would regularly require cloture votes, completely foreign to the senate until the sad chapter began during president bush 41's administration in the earlyeg 2000s.
as of 1968, '68, cloture had never been required for any nomination. any nomination. as of 1978, it had been required for two. two. as of 1978. until 2003, in no congress -- none -- had more than 12 cloture motions ever been needed for nominations. but now, t again, president trump's chosen nominees faced 128 cloture votes during the congress just past. so this entire conversation is a modern aberration. this hasn't been going on forever. this is a fairly recent thing. this behavior is new. so we need to restore the senate's tradition in this area.
fortunately, we have a clear road map to do just that. in 2013, immediately after president obama's re-election, 78 senators -- including me -- passed a bipartisan standing order to speed up the consideration of many presidential nominees. 78 members of this body passed a standing to order to help president obama speed up the executive calendar. it reduced the postcloture time for most nominations without touching the supreme court, circuit courts or the highest levels of the executive branch. essentially, everything else got a more streamlined process so nominees could be confirmed more efficiently. again, mr. president, president obama had just been inaugurated for the second time days
earlier. finish you better believe republicans were disappointed we lost. but we did not throw a systematic tantrum. instead, a sizable number of us came over and joined the democrats to help the senate process non-controversial nominations as it i had for the vast bulk of the history of the senate. i was the republican leader in the minority, and i still supported it. we judged it was the right thing to do and we did it. the standing order passed 78-16. so today, mr. president, i'm cfiling cloture on a resolution that takes that bipartisan effort as its blue print. this resolution from senator blunt and senator lankford would implement very similar steps and
make them a permanent part of the senate going forward. the supreme court, sir caught courts, cabinet-level executive positions and certain independent boards and commissions would not change. but for most other nominations, for the hundreds, literally hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes postcloture debate time would be moved from 30 hours to 2 hours. this would facilitate more efficient consent agreements, and most importantly, it would allow the administration -- finally, finally, two years into its tenure -- to staff numerous important positions that remain unfilled with nominees who have been lang -- languishing. this resolution has come up through t the regular order to, through the rules committee, and
next week we'll vote on it. it deserves the same kind of bipartisan vote that senator schumer and senator reid's proposal received back d senator reed's proposal received back during the obama administration. now, i understand that many of my democratic colleagues have indicated they'd be all for this reform as long as it doesn't go into effect until 2021. when they, obviously, hope someone else might be in the white house. but they're reluctant to support it now. give me a break. mr. president, that is the unfair on it face. my democratic colleagues were more than happy to support a similar proposal back in 2013 under president obama. they whisper in our ears privately they'd supportel it nw if it took effect in 2021.
oh, but they, you know, can't support it now especially under these unprecedented spanishs simply -- circumstances simply because we have a republican president. so look, mr. president, fair is fair. members of this body should only support reforms that they would be ready to support in the minority as they are in the majority. put another way, if we are in -- my side is in the minority two years from now, i don't think this'll be an unfair, it will disadvantage us in the front, in the wake of a new democratic president. this is a change the institution needs, a change the institution made already, basically, with a ittwo-year education e peopler when president obama was -- experiment when president obama was in office. this is a reform that every
member should embrace. when their party controls the white house and when it does not control the white house. so i would urge every one of my colleagues, let's get the senate back to the normal historical pattern for handling presidential nominations. let's give president trump as well as all future presidents a functional process for building their administrations. let's give the american people the government they actually elected. and let's seize this chance to do so through the bipartisan regular order that we're pursuing here both in committee and now on the floor. the status quo is unsustainable for the senate and for the country. it's unfair to this president and to future presidents of either party. it cannot stand and, mr. president, it will not stand.
>> mr. president. >> [inaudible] >> i still have the floor. >> the majority leader has the floor. >> would the majority leader yield for a question? >> i move to proceed to calendar number 24, senate resolution 50. >> the clerk will report. >> motion to the improve procedures for the consideration of nominations in the senate. >> i send a cloture motion to the desk. >> the clerk will report the cloture motion. >> cloture motion, we need to -- standing rules of the senate, do you here by move to bring to a close to debate senate resolution 50, a resolution improving procedures for the consideration of nominations in the senate signed by 17 senators as follows: >> thehe reading of the names be waived. >> without objection. >> mr.mc president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to executive session for
thera consideration of calendar all nominations on the secretary's desk. that the nominations be cop firmed, the motion to the reconsider with considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order, that any statements related to the nomination shall be printed in the record, presidentat is to be immediately notified and the senate resume legislative session. >> mr. president? >> is there objection? >> mr. president? mr. president? >> is there objection? >> reserving the right to object, mr. president. majority leader -- >> senator from oregon's recognized. >> the majority leader has said he's going to put a rule change on the floor and we're going to return to the historical norm. the historical norm has been when such a rule is on the floor, amendments will be allowed. does the majority leader intend to allow amendments?
>> yeah, i understand the senator from oregon is propounding a question, and if he'd repeat it, i'd appreciate it. >> thein senator's recognized. >>mr yes. thank you, mr. majority leader. you referred to historical norms. it's been the historical norm to allownd amendments on the floorf this chamber so they coulding be debated. and i recall very well listening to you complain a great deal about harry reid blocking amendments, blocking theei tree, and he did, in fact, do that as majority leader, and then he would negotiate, and we'd have a whole set of amendments on both sides. it took some time, but there were amendments. we've haden a historic lull in amendments, and now we're proposing a rule change on how this chamber operates. so isn't it the right thing to do, if we're returning to the
historical norm or trying to restore that sense of making this ais functioning chamber -- >> senator asking me a question? >> yes. to allow amendments when this comes to the floor? and i'm asking you if you would allow such amendments. >> mr. president, let me say that we've had a number of bills that we brought to the floor open for amendment. one of the things we've devolved into here, another unfortunate enprecedent, is members objectig to time agreements on amendments either side. so even if the majority leader calls up a bill and has it open for amendment, unless members of the senate on both parties will allow there to be time agreements so we can actually have votes on amendments, it gets bogged down. and i think the complaint of my friend from oregon is legitimate. i've been very frustrated by the fact that when i call up a bill and open it up for amendment, i have members on both sides preventing each other's amendments from getting a vote.
so i share the frustration of my colleague from oregon, but i assure you, when i call up a bill and say it's open for amendment, it's open for amendment. it's just that it requires senatorial bipartisan cooperation to set time agreements to actually have such votes.s. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous concept -- i think i have a u.c. agreement, a u.c. pending. >> is there objection to the request? >> mr. president, reserving the right to object, i didn't actually get clarity on whether you will open the floor for amendments when you bring this rule change the floor and whether it will be open in the sense that when one amendment's completed, a senator can ask for another to be considered or only the amendments you approve will be allowed to be considered. >> well, mr. president, in order to guarantee a particular
amendment would get a vote without concept, we'd have -- cop sent, we'd have to be able to get 60 votes to invoke cloture to advance the amendment. so i just reiterate to my friend from oregon, your complaint is legitimate, but it does require no matter what the majority leader says with regard to the openness of a bill some level of bipartisan cooperation in order to process amendments. and we've tried that on numerous occasions. and members on both sides have sort of hunkered down and objected to each other's objections. >> i do have a consent agreement pending. i don't know whether the senator from oregon wants to continue to object to all of these -- >> reserving the right to object -- >> -- session nominations which would include people from the marine corps, the navy, the air force, the army. i was seeking the military
promotions of these people who are serving our country in the armed forces. >> is this objection? >> reserving the right to object. i will, in fact, make in the last time that i reserve the right to object simply to make this point: that there are many ideas for improving this chamber that have not had due consideration. you have e expressed a lot of frustration over executive nominations. i've put forward an amendment in the minority establishing a 100-day clock for amendments to be voted for on this floor once the paperwork is complete. others have other ideas including the ability to have a time at the start of every two years to be able to have an open debate on amendments on how we work. others have other ideas for ovimproving this chamber. i think such a debate is way overdue. but if it is the majority leader's intent just to allow the one issue that he's bringing
forward, then that is not turning the clock back to historical norm. i was near this chamber in 1976 and during the '80s seeing this body debate issues. and i would ask that if you bringis this to the floor, as yu are planning to do, that you open u it up for amendments. get a time agreement. i willly certainly encourage my side to agree to such a thing. i take your point about it not just being a delay. i think there are serious possibilities for improving how we work. they should be debated. ii hope you'll open the floor to amendments. >> on monday the trump administration doubled down on their assault on american health care. by supporting an effort to completely eliminate the health care law through the courts. people scratched their head, are they really doing this? after trying for two years unsuccessfully? after losing thesu election? yep, they were. the action is no s