Published in Truthout
Despite pleas from civil rights groups, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked the “nuclear option” on Wednesday, allowing a simple majority of Republicans to reduce debate on dozens of presidential nominees from up to 30 hours to only two. The Senate voted 51-48 along party lines to approve the new rules, which limit debate on Trump nominees to federal district courts as well as dozens of sub-Cabinet administrative posts. Nominations to top courts and Cabinet positions are exempt.
“Two hours for a lifetime appointment with huge impacts on people’s lives is unacceptable; it’s ridiculous, it’s a mockery of how this institution should work,” Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Before the vote, McConnell and other top Republicans blamed a backlog of low-profile administrative nominations on obstructionist Democrats. However, Democrats said Trump and McConnell have already used the GOP’s majority in the Senate to pack federal courts with judges at a record pace, even as lawmakers blocked confirmations for several nominees whose young age and hard-right ideology appeared to be their only judicial qualification.
“Mitch McConnell has indeed prioritized the confirmation of federal judges, and he continues to try to mislead the American people about what is happening in the judicial nominations process,” said Dan Goldberg, legal director of the Alliance for Justice, in an email. “In the first two years of his presidency, President Trump outpaced President Obama’s federal judicial confirmations, largely because of Republican tactics of gutting rules and norms to speed through virtually every Trump judicial nominee.”