Senate Democrats have slowed President Donald Trump’s efforts to build his administration by pushing the maximum 30 hours of debate for nearly every one of his executive branch nominees.
“At this rate, the United States Senate would take 11 and a half years to confirm our nominees,” @MarcShort45 says.
Of the 642 key government posts that require confirmation, the Senate so far has confirmed 277 during Trump’s 14 months in office, according to data from the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.
Another 146 nominees still await confirmation, according to the partnership, which also notes that Trump has made no nomination for 216 positions.
Many of the stalled nominees have cleared a committee vote, which in the past typically meant a speedy vote on the Senate floor, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said in pointing to obstruction by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“Sen. Schumer is essentially weaponizing a Senate procedure and demanding cloture votes on our nominees that he even eventually supports,” Short told reporters during a press briefing last week.
“Eleven of the president’s nominees have been approved without a single dissenting vote,” he said, “yet still forced to go through a 30 hours of debate to essentially slow down the Senate calendar simply for the purpose of obstruction.”
Republicans hold 51 seats in the 100-member Senate, while Democrats hold 47 and typically may count on the votes of two independents.
In the previous four administrations combined, the Senate held 17 cloture votes, going back to President George H.W. Bush. During Trump’s first 14 months, the Senate’s Democrat minority forced 79 cloture votes as a delaying tactic, Short said.
In 2013, Democrats controlled the Senate and killed the standard that 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster and proceed to a floor vote on lower court and executive branch nominees. As a result, most presidential appointments could be confirmed by a 51-vote majority.
When Senate Democrats last year tried to block confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Republicans did away with the 60-vote standard for all judicial nominees. So, all presidential nominees may advance with 51 votes, rather than a filibuster-proof 60.
Now, though, getting a vote is the problem. The cloture rule that requires 30 hours of debate before a vote may occur has become the new delaying tactic.
Unlike a filibuster, which allows a minority to block a floor vote, cloture uses procedural tactics to prolong the confirmation process so much that it limits the number of nominees who can reach the floor for a simple majority vote.
“At this rate, the United States Senate would take 11 and a half years to confirm our nominees,” Short said.
Here are six of the top Trump nominees awaiting confirmation.
1. Jim Bridenstine, for NASA director.
Nominated in September, Bridenstine is a Republican member of the House from Oklahoma who serves on the Armed Services and the Science, Space, and Technology committees.
Five dozen House members recently wrote to Senate leadership to urge his speedy confirmation.
Bridenstine began a Navy aviation career flying the E-2C Hawkeye early-warning aircraft from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the White House said, and flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While on active duty, he transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.
After active duty, Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to become executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. He flew missions to counter drug trafficking in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve. He is a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
2. Ann Marie Buerkle, for chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The commission will shift to Republican control after the Senate confirms Buerkle as well as nominee Dana Baiocco to serve as commissioner.
Nominated in July, Buerkle currently is a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, where she became acting chairman this year.
Buerkle previously was a House member representing New York’s 25th Congressional District and, in 2011-2012, a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly. From 1997 to 2009, she was an assistant attorney general for New York state after practicing law with a private firm.
3. Pat Pizzella for deputy secretary of labor.
Trump nominated Pizzella in June. He currently is acting chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, a position to which Trump named him in January 2017. He has been on that board since November 2013, nominated by Barack Obama.
From 2001-2009, Pizzella was assistant labor secretary for administration and management. He also has worked in the Office of Personnel Management, the Small Business Administration, and the General Services Administration, the White House notes.
4. Janet Dhillon, for chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Trump nominated Dhillon in June. If the Senate confirms her as well as nominee Daniel Gade as commissioner, Republican appointees would control the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Dhillon is a former general counsel for J.C. Penney Co. Inc., US Airways Group, and Burlington Stores. She also led the Retail Litigation Center, an industry group that has clashed in court with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the White House. From 1991 to 2004, she was of counsel to the Washington-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
5. Yleem Poblete, for assistant secretary of state for arms control verification and compliance.
Trump nominated Poblete in October, and her nomination is stalled even as the administration confronts issues of nuclear compliance with Iran and in pending negotiations with North Korea.
“Yleem Poblete will be assistant secretary for arms control at the Department of State when confirmed,” Short told reporters last week. “Obviously, arms control is an important issue for national security and particularly heightened in light of upcoming negotiations with North Korea.”
Poblete previously was a staff director at the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She currently is a senior adviser at the State Department after two decades on the House staff.
She was the first Hispanic woman to serve as staff director of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She also was that committee’s principal staff member on initiatives to address threats posed by Iran, North Korea, and Syria, according to the White House.
6. Andrew Wheeler, for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump nominated Wheeler in October. A former EPA staffer, he is now head of the energy and environment team at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where he co-chairs a team on the energy and natural resources industry.
“[EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt, still to this day, does not have a deputy, a No. 2, serving at the EPA,” Short told reporters, specifying that Wheeler cleared a committee vote in November.
Wheeler was on the Republican staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for 14 years. His roles included both majority and minority staff director and chief counsel, the White House notes.
He began his career at the EPA as a special assistant in the toxics office, where he received three bronze medals.