Hardball: McConnell Changes Rule to Overcome Obstruction of Trump's Judicial Picks, Dems Fume
http://www.weeklystandard.com/mitch-mcc ... le/2010022
The List! Rev AThe Republican drive to confirm federal judges has gained momentum from a series of actions by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They seem modest but are likely to speed up the confirmation of both appeals and district court judges—conservatives, for the most part.
Democrats won’t be pleased. The steps McConnell has taken in recent weeks are aimed at thwarting their efforts to block, sideline, or delay President Trump’s nominees.
Here’s what McConnell has done:
* Confirming judicial nominees has been elevated to a top priority in the Senate. “I decide the priority,” McConnell said in an interview. “Priority between an assistant secretary of State and a conservative court judge—it’s not a hard choice to make.”
And when nominees “come out of committee, I guarantee they will be dealt with,” McConnell said. “Regardless of what tactics are used by Democrats, the judges are going to be confirmed.”
* No longer will “blue slips” be allowed to deny a nominee a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on confirmation. In the past, senators have sometimes barred a nominee from their state by refusing to return their slip to the committee, thus preventing a hearing and confirmation.
“The majority”—that is, Republicans—will treat a blue slip “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball,” McConnell told me. The use of blue slips, he noted, is not a Senate rule and has “been honored in the breach over the years.” Now it won’t be honored at all.
* The so-called “30 hours rule”—which provides for 30 hours of debate on a nominee—won’t be overturned. But McConnell vowed to set aside time for these debates. And he can make this happen because he sets the Senate schedule.
The majority leader has been under pressure recently from conservative groups to get more court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee—and more rapidly—and sent to the Senate floor. McConnell had long prodded the committee to increase the number of hearings, then report the nominees out as quickly as possible for Senate floor votes.
One of McConnell’s critics is the Judicial Crisis Network, which promotes the nomination of more conservatives. It planned to run an ad urging McConnell to accelerate the pace of dealing with nominees, but held off after talking to his aides, Politico reported.
Another group, the Conservative Action Project, released a memo calling on McConnell to immediately “schedule committee and floor action every Thursday and Friday for the foreseeable future” to confirm judges and administration officials.
In the interview, McConnell said “it takes a while to get [more judicial nominees] in the pipelines.” But the White House has begun turning out more nominations in recent weeks.
Since Trump was inaugurated, judicial vacancies have grown from 106 to 149. Upcoming resignations will boost the number of vacancies to 166.
The possibility of losing control of the Senate in 2018 has added to the concern among Republicans about the losing the chance to maximize the conservative influence in the federal courts. This, McConnell said, “is another reason to more quickly.”