McConnell Detonates ‘Nuclear Option’ to Speed Approval of Trump Nominees

April 3, 2019 by Dan McCue
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks to the press alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he arrives on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 before joining Senate Republicans for lunch in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday forced through a rule change, the so-called “nuclear option,” to cut back on debate over President Donald Trump’s judicial and administrative nominees.

McConnell claims the move was necessary because debate over Trump nominees had gotten out of hand.

“The comprehensive campaign by Senate Democrats to delay Senate consideration of presidential nominations is now more than two years old,” he said. “It is time for this sorry chapter to end.”

With the rule change, the Republicans who control the Senate cut the time between ending debate and holding a final confirmation vote on White House nominees from 30 hours to just two.

Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court nominations, and appeals court judges would be exempted from the new rules.

This was the third time in six years that the party in control of the chamber opted for the nuclear option, a parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.

McConnell’s move indefinitely restores rules that were in place in the first years of President Barack Obama’s second term.

Once those rules lapsed, any senator could force 30 hours of debate on any nominee.

McConnell sought to justify his decision to change the rule by noting that Democrats had routinely filibustered President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Democrats in the Senate countered by bitterly recalling the partisan rift opened when their Republican colleagues blocked the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

“There’s no other word but ‘hypocrisy,’” said Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after McConnell acted to change the rules, adding it was “a very sad day for the Senate.”

“This is not a sad day, this is a glad day,” McConnell said in response.

But Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., kept up the criticism, accusing the majority leader of “corrupting” the Senate.

“We have walked away from amending, debating and legislating,” Durbin said.

All Democrats voted against invoking the nuclear option as did Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

Despite the outcry from their opponents, Republicans in the Senate moved on swiftly with the new rules in place, using them to approve the nomination of Jeffrey Kessler, as assistant secretary of commerce.

They were expected to invoke the new rules again later on Wednesday to approve Trump’s nomination of Roy Kalman Altman, an attorney in private practice, to be a federal judge in Florida’s Southern District.

on Wednesday forced through a rule change, the so-called “nuclear option,” to cut back on debate over President Donald Trump’s judicial and administrative nominees.

McConnell claims the move was necessary because debate over Trump nominees had gotten out of hand.

“The comprehensive campaign by Senate Democrats to delay Senate consideration of presidential nominations is now more than two years old,” he said. “It is time for this sorry chapter to end.”

With the rule change, the Republicans who control the Senate cut the time between ending debate and holding a final confirmation vote on White House nominees from 30 hours to just two.

Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court nominations, and appeals court judges would be exempted from the new rules.

This was the third time in six years that the party in control of the chamber opted for the nuclear option, a parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.

McConnell’s move indefinitely restores rules that were in place in the first years of President Barack Obama’s second term.

Once those rules lapsed, any senator could force 30 hours of debate on any nominee.

McConnell sought to justify his decision to change the rule by noting that Democrats had routinely filibustered President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Democrats in the Senate countered by bitterly recalling the partisan rift opened when their Republican colleagues blocked the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

“There’s no other word but ‘hypocrisy,’” said Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after McConnell acted to change the rules, adding it was “a very sad day for the Senate.”

“This is not a sad day, this is a glad day,” McConnell said in response.

But Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., kept up the criticism, accusing the majority leader of “corrupting” the Senate.

“We have walked away from amending, debating and legislating,” Durbin said.

All Democrats voted against invoking the nuclear option as did Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

Despite the outcry from their opponents, Republicans in the Senate moved on swiftly with the new rules in place, using them to approve the nomination of Jeffrey Kessler, as assistant secretary of commerce.

They were expected to invoke the new rules again later on Wednesday to approve Trump’s nomination of Roy Kalman Altman, an attorney in private practice, to be a federal judge in Florida’s Southern District.

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