President Donald Trump still has more than 275 executive and judicial branch nominees pending Senate confirmation because of Democratic obstruction, far more than his presidential predecessors at the comparable points in their presidencies.
The Senate confirmed Trump’s pick to run the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, on Thursday.
That still leaves many administration positions open and still awaiting committee action.
The bulk of the pending nominees are for mid-level positions in executive branch departments or for district judgeships. Mid-level executive branch posts can be key to implementing a president’s policies at the ground level.
Procedural obstruction by the Senate Democratic minority, along with some isolated cases of Republicans stalling a nominee, has left Trump with 175 nominations pending in Senate committees and 102 others pending on the Senate calendar for a floor vote, according to a White House information sheet released Wednesday.
With additional nominees, Senate Republicans say the number now is 283.
The Senate has confirmed 59 percent of Trump’s nominees nearly 16 months into his presidency, according to the White House. For President Barack Obama, it was 68 percent at the comparable point in his presidency in 2010. For President George W. Bush, it was 77 percent of nominees confirmed at this point in 2002.
The Senate had confirmed 85 percent of President Bill Clinton’s nominees by this time in 1994, and 83 percent of President George H.W. Bush’s nominees at this point in 1990.
Trump’s nominees for executive branch positions and federal judgeships—many of whom were subsequently confirmed either unanimously or overwhelmingly—faced 93 cloture votes. They then had to face the maximum 30 hours of debate before getting a vote of the full Senate.
By contrast, there were only 17 cloture votes on nominees for the entirety of Obama’s first term, four during the entirety of George W. Bush’s first term, 10 cloture votes on nominees during Clinton’s first term, and just one during George H.W. Bush’s single term.
“If the full time were required for each cloture vote (30 hours), which the vast majority have, then the Senate would have spent 110 days this Congress dedicated solely to cloture,” the White House fact sheet said, adding that, “41 percent of President Trump’s nominees are still waiting for confirmation in the Senate.”
The Senate did away with the filibuster rule as it applied to nominees, which could prevent a vote from ever happening. While the cloture procedure can’t prevent a floor vote, it can postpone the vote in order to further delay other nominees from coming to the floor.
Senate Democrats contend the Republican majority has been slow-walking or putting holds on nominees, too, and that Trump has been slow to submit nominations to the Senate.
Further, Trump has had the highest turnover in his Cabinet of any president in the past century, according to a National Public Radio analysis. High turnover among high-ranking officials can also slow the process of the Senate taking votes on mid-level officials.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has criticized some Republicans for seeking to curb the rules on cloture votes.
Today @SenateGOP will try to change Senate rules, but hasn’t this week shown that the president’s nominees deserve scrutiny, not automatic confirmation?
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 25, 2018
However, earlier this year, one Democrat did express concern about the process.
“I don’t believe we should be holding nominees hostage,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on Feb. 7. “Enough is enough. We need people who are qualified to fill these important positions in our government.”
On Wednesday, 16 Republicans signed a letter asking their fellow senators to skip their traditional August recess to confirm all of Trump’s remaining nominees and to pass a federal budget.
Trump has sent fewer nominees to the Senate, 794, than any of his recent predecessors, except for the 703 of George H.W. Bush. But Bush came into office after serving as President Ronald Reagan’s vice president, so there was less turnover, and thus fewer nominations to make.
Clinton had put forth 887 nominations to the Senate at the comparable point in his presidency. George W. Bush had nominated 930, and Obama, 882.