Senate Republicans may use the “nuclear option” as soon as next week to speed confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees, according to Sen. Todd Young.
Senate Republicans have been discussing cutting the debate time on lower-level nominees for months now, frustrated by Democrats’ ability to demand as many as 30 hours of debate on each one. The Indiana Republican told Hugh Hewitt on Monday that the GOP conference may make a move soon.
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“It’s very difficult for a president to advance his or her agenda if you don’t have the right people in place,” Young said. “We want to make sure that the right people, whether they’re judges or mid-level appointees to different agencies are expeditiously processed if they are of a non-controversial nature.”
Young said the Senate could move on it shortly after voting on President Donald Trump’s immigration proposal, which is expected to be blocked by Senate Democrats on Thursday.
With a newly strengthened 53-seat majority, the Senate GOP is in a stronger position now to pass a rules change than it was in the previous Congress. And after losing the House to Democrats, the Senate is likely to focus more on nominations, given the chamber’s unilateral sway over confirmations and its ideological disagreements on legislation with the House.
Large numbers of nominees can be confirmed if all 100 senators agree to speedy votes, but any one senator can hold up nominees and force floor votes and delays, a source of frustration for Republicans now and for Democrats during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Senate Republicans can change these rules via the “nuclear option,” a step that would allow them to cut the debate time on nominees as long as they have at least 50 votes. A similar procedural move was used by former Democratic Leader Harry Reid to scuttle the supermajority requirement on executive branch nominees and most judges, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the maneuver in 2017 to do the same for Supreme Court judges.
Such rules changes can also be done in bipartisan fashion: Republicans and Democrats teamed to ease temporarily cut debate time on some of Obama’s nominees in 2013.
McConnell’s top priority as majority leader has been confirming judges to lifetime appointments. His office said that while members are discussing the move, there’s no official scheduling announcement.