Republicans invoked the controversial “nuclear option” Wednesday by changing Senate rules to speed up confirmation of President Trump’s nominees.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to cut debate on executive appointments from 30 hours to two and the Senate voted 51-48 along partisan lines to do so.
The power move by McConnell follows weeks of frustration over Democrats’ delaying action on the president’s appointments to key government and judicial posts.
The nuclear option allows the changes in Senate rules by a simple majority.
“It is time for this sorry chapter to end. It’s time to return this body to a more normal and reasonable process for fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities no matter which party control the White House,” McConnell said, referring to Democrats’ stonewalling Trump nominees.
“This is new. And it needs to stop.”
McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor, accused Democrats of engaging in “systematic obstruction.”
But Democrats accused McConnell and the GOP of hypocrisy given how they moved to block former President Obama’s appointments. Most notably, McConnell denied a floor vote on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t know why they are continuing to pursue this except that they want to ram through judges, they want to ram through Justice Department people,” said Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is running for president.
But Democrats also used the nuclear option to suspend debate when they were in the majority.
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suspended the 60-vote requirement on most White House nominees when Obama was president to prevent GOP filibusters.
McConnell in 2017 applied the debate limit rule to Supreme Court appointments as well. That rule had lapsed and is being re-instated.
During his floor speech, McConnell said fights on presidential nominees date back to Sen. Chuck Schumer-led (D-NY) filibusters of Bush appeals court picks ,notably Miguel Estrada, whose nomination stalled after a lobbying campaign by liberal opponents.
Schumer is now the Democratic minority leader
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