Before leaving for its summer break, the U.S. Senate confirmed 67 of President Donald Trump’s nominees to positions in 12 different executive branch departments and agencies.
These include deputy, under, and assistant secretaries, as well as administrators, commissioners, general counsels, and ambassadors.
Unfortunately, this was merely a temporary respite in the confirmation war.
The Constitution gives the president authority to nominate those he wants to lead the various components of the executive branch. The Constitution also gives the Senate the power of advice and consent as a check, or a condition, on the president’s power to appoint those leaders.
This separation of powers once shaped the confirmation process.
The Senate has, by either confirmation vote or filibuster, defeated only six of the thousands of executive branch nominees it has ever considered. And the Senate confirmed the rest efficiently by voice votes rather than by time-consuming roll-call votes.
No matter which party controlled the Senate or White House, senators respected the president’s responsibility to appoint those who would lead his branch of government.
President Barack Obama and Trump each replaced a successor of the other party, and each had a Senate of his own party when he took office.
So comparing the confirmation process as each administration got underway is a good way to determine whether the traditional respect for the separation of powers still exists.
The Senate confirmed each president’s Cabinet by its August break—21 appointees for Obama and 23 for Trump.
That’s where the similarities end.
The minority asked for a roll-call vote on only six of Obama’s nominees, casting a total of only 110 negative votes. The others were confirmed without opposition by voice vote.
This year, the minority has demanded a roll-call vote on every single nominee, casting a total of 723 negative votes. Only one nominee had no opposition and none was confirmed by voice vote.
Or look specifically at the Department of Justice.
Obama and Trump made approximately the same number of top Justice Department nominations at this point. The Senate, however, confirmed 50 percent more of those nominees in 2009 than it has this entire year.
Not only that, but it has taken more than 50 percent longer to confirm Trump’s Justice Department nominees than it did to confirm Obama’s choices.
Only one purpose exists for this confirmation chaos.
Democrats abandoned their most potent obstruction weapon in November 2013, when they abolished filibusters of all executive branch nominees.
Since they cannot actually defeat these nominees, the only motive left is to undermine Trump’s ability to govern. Instead of a means to an end, such obstruction has now become a partisan end in itself.
I have served in the Senate during every partisan combination of Senate and White House control. This is not the first time that the parties have been at odds over important issues or that differences exist within each party caucus in the Senate.
Today, however, we are at a crossroads, facing the choice whether those differences will infect and erode support for the system within which policy debates take place.
Senators can demonstrate their support for our system of government by restoring the traditional respect for the separation of powers that has informed the confirmation process. That will be a stronger and more secure foundation on which to tackle the nation’s problems.
(First reported by The Daily Signal)http://dailysignal.com/2017/08/15/senate-democrats-are-trying-to-undermine-trumps-ability-to-govern/ (August 15, 2017)
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