Democratic senators intend to hold up the nominations of some Donald Trump Cabinet picks, but there’s not much they can do to stop them thanks to rules they recently implemented.
Several Democratic lawmakers told Politico that they could force up to 30 hours of debate and procedural votes on each nominee, which could take weeks off the Senate calendar and sap the momentum of Trump’s first 100 days.
“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified? It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”
Democrats weakened their own ability to block Trump picks who are “outside the mainstream” when they changed Senate rules in 2013 to end the 60-vote requirement on all nominations except the Supreme Court and then approved dozens of lifetime judicial appointments over the objections of GOP senators.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the incoming Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member, agreed with other Democrats that their GOP colleagues should be punished for their treatment of Merrick Garland, who President Barack Obama nominated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Past is present, and what goes around comes around,” she said. “Now, those are pretty hackneyed sayings, but those are really true around here.”
Democrats who spoke to the website said Trump should be able to assemble a Cabinet in a timely fashion, but they don’t plan to rubber-stamp all of his picks.
“I’m not going to vote for radical nominees, and I’m not going to vote for totally unprepared nominees,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “But if a nominee is more to the mainstream of the Republican Party and has experience in the field they’re undertaking to oversee, there will be Democratic votes.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) seems likely to face the most opposition as Trump’s nominee for attorney general.
Brown pointed out that his Republican colleague was “dissed by the Senate once for his racism” 30 years ago by a Senate committee when then-President Ronald Reagan nominated him for a federal judgeship.
Betsy DeVos, Tom Price, James Mattis and Steven Mnuchin also seem likely to face additional pushback from Senate Democrats — although not all lawmakers are on board.
“That’s just bullsh*t,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of five Democratic senators facing re-election in 2018 in states that strongly supported Trump. “My God, I think we should have an attorney general in place on Jan. 20. I sure do believe that.”