tv Senate Rules Hearing on Procedures for Considering Nominations CSPAN February 14, 2019 2:25pm-3:41pm EST
network, that eventually he put, he used in the 1850s to put himself into the position of getting the republican nomination for president. >> these are the gloves that were in abraham lincoln's pocket on the night of the assassination. and you can see the remnants of the blood on these gloves today. >> join us on book tv, this saturday, at noon, as we speak with local springfield authors, and this sunday at 2:00 p.m., we will learn about lincoln's ties to spring fooerld, and the political history of this town, on american history tv. watch c-span cities tour of springfield, illinois, working with our cable affiliates, as we explore the american story. a senate committee voted along party lines to change the procedures for how presidential nominations are considered. the measure is co-sponsored by the chair of the committee, roy blunt and senator james langford
of oklahoma. it now goes on to the full senate. >> the commit on rules and administration will come to order. good morning. glad to welcome you and all of my colleagues here today. this, today, the committee will consider three items. two of those items, the first of those items, are two minor changes in the committee rules. second, we will have a resolution authorizing the expenditures by all senate committees. and finally, senate resolution 50, a resolution improving procedures, for consideration of nominations in the senate which was introduced last week, by senator langford, and myself. i'll discuss each of these items in more detail once we turn to them. additionally, i understand many of my colleagues might like to speak on issues before us. there will be ample time to do
that and we will do that as we deal with each of these items separately. certainly glad to be joined by the top democrat on this committee, senator klobuchar and senator cloeb kmar if you have any opening states. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you to all of the members. i know we're going to be voting on something today that i consider controversial, and am opposed to but i would like to take a second to note that with the existing rules in place, we've been able to accomplish a lot on this committee, we passed landmark legislation, with the support of leader mcconnell, and senator schumer, with their hard work to improve how harassment cases are handled in this legislative branch. we held hearings on election security, and we're able to get behind on a bipartisan basis, getting $380 million out to the states. we held hearings on the secure elections act and senator langford and i are working to
move that forward. and we were also successful in changing the rules to make this institution more family friendly and no one will forget senator duckworth arriving on the floor with her little baby miley pearl. i have a number of bills regarding federal elections, and things that i think we could do to improve the system, and so i'm hoping we can move forward on some hearings on elections as well. with that, i'll turn it back to you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator klobuchar. the committee will now proceed to consideration of the committee's rules for this congress. senator klobuchar and i are recommending two changes to the rules from the last congress. we're recommending separate deadlines for the receipt and circulation of amendments to any legislation that the committee may consider. previously the deadline was the
same. and even though our clerk, our chief clerk is incredibly talented, to be able to reeve at 5:00 p.m., and also circulate, by 5:00 p.m., not possible, and so we're recommending an hour difference from the time we receive those, until they're circulated. we're also recommend thrag we remove the requirement that amendments be circulated by e-mail. the current committee practices to post amendments to the committee agency internet site, where they are immediately accessible by committee members and their staff, and we had those amendments, the clerk would continue to circulate amendments by posting them on the committee's internet staff site, but our rules would reflect that. any further discussion of those two rules changes? >> chairman blunt, i recognize the need to update our committee rules, and support moving forward with this, and i hope we can do it with a voice vote.
>> all right. the question is on adoption of the committee's rules of procedure. all those in favor, say aye. >> aye. >> those opposed, say no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it, the rules of the committee are adopted pursuant to senate rule 26, the rules will go into effect after they've been published in the congressional record. the committee will now proceed to the consideration of the omnibus spending, committee spending resolution, the committee funding resolution for this congress. the resolution before you is a result of a bipartisan process, senator klobuchar and i undertook this year to solicit more information from committee chairmen, and ranking members about the needs of their committees, based on these conversations senator klobuchar and i are recommending a small increase to committee funding. the total funding is still below the committee funding of a decade ago. which is when committee funding had reached its highest point.
i greatly appreciate the cooperation we've had from the committee chairman in developing this budget resolution. their input and insights were critical, and we have, those have been available to you. senator klobuchar? >> i would like to thank you, chairman blunt, for working with me and our staff. having strong committees is very important. i view this as a time where congress is playing a major role in oversight. and major role as a balance. and i'm glad we were able to figure out a way to work with all of our committee chairman and ranking members. i want to particularly thank raenking member udal for giving me a cookie, because we helped him with his budget. that was a good protocol that we may want to use in the future going forward. it doesn't violate the ethics rules. but i think that it's been very positive experience working with the chairman and rankings and we want to continue that. so i hope we could also vote
this through by voice vote. >> i would want the record to note that senator udall gave no one else a cookie. in spite of that, we're moving forward, with this. i now offer blunt amendment one, that authorizes the expenditures for this committee, and ask unanimous consent it be considered read. hearing no objection, the amendment is considered read. any further discussion? if there is no further discussion, the question on this amendment is offered all those in favor say aye. >> aye. >> all opposed, no. and in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it and the amendment is agreed to. any further amendments? let's move on then to the, i think if there are no further amendments, we need to have one more vote, so if the question's on ordering the resolution as amended, favorably reported, all those in favor, say aye.
>> aye. >> all those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. the omnibus committee funding resolution is favorably reported as amended. the committee will now proceed to consideration of senate resolution 50. a resolution improving procedures for the consideration of nominations to the senate. this resolution is straightforward. it's based on largely on what was agreed to by 78 senators, in the 113th congress. 35 of those 78 senators are currently serving. and this is what the resolution does. once cloture is filed and the intervening day is passed which would still be part of the process, and debate is brought to a close, the senate would have two hours equally divided to debate all nominees with a few notable exceptions. cabinet secretaries, supreme court and circuit court nominee, the nominees of 13 boards and
commissions would also be subject to the 30 hours of post-cloture debate equally divided. senate resolution 50 still allows for significant opportunities for senators to debate the nominee's merits. and while the only original response thef sponsors of this were senator langford and i, i can assure you we wrote with the idea in mind with what the kind of protection we would want if we were in the minority. it's my view, and senator langford's view, and hopefully the view the majority of my colleagues today, that presidents deserve to have their teams in place. it is that simple. that's what this does. and it applies to whatever party occupies the white house. never before have we seen the level of obstruction in the confirmation process in the first two years of a presidency. president trump's nominees were subjected to 128 cloture votes,
this compares to eight cloture's on nominees during president clinton's first two years. four during president george busch's first two years and 12 during president obama's first two years. a total of those three presidencies of 24 votes, as opposed to to 128 votes during the first two years of the trump presidency. it might be different if those votes, which in effect demand that we take more time to discuss an individual nominee, really resulted in debate, but little debate occurs during that time. equally troubling, is that after the time has been used up, almost half the nominees, 48% of them, got more than 60 votes at the end of this process, to end
the debate. 37% of the nominees got more than 70 vote, but they all took the maximum time. remember, only 51 senators would be required to confirm, but 37% of the people that went through this entire process that has seldom been exercised before, got 70 votes and 48% got 60 votes. the conclusion i can draw from this is we're not really debating the nominee. we're voting really to take more time, to take up time that could be used for legislative matters, and other matters. two dozen nominees were returned to the president at the end of the last congress, who had been out of committee for over a year. dozens of others were returned that have been out ofment for significant amount of time. this really restores the senate's advice and consent
role. it allows president, regardless of party, to staff departments, and agencies with individuals the senate has vetted. remember all of these people have already been through the committee process. they have been voted out of committee on to the floor, and those things have been and would continue to be an important part of the process. i certainly encourage my colleagues on both sides to support this measure. senator klobuchar announced her candidacy for president on sunday on a snowy day and showed lots of determination out there as she does in so many ways and is so good to work with. you know if senator klobuchar becomes president she should have her nominees not be put through the process that the current president's nominees have been put through and he shouldn't have to deal with it either. so i think this is time to solve this problem, frankly both sides
will continue to up the ante on how we deal with this issue, until we are stop ourselves from doing it, i think this is a good time to do that. i believe this bill does that. i think we have proven in a previous congress how a temporary standing order would work. this would be a permanent standing order, and i'm of course urging my colleagues to support. it senator klobuchar. >> thank you for that reference, i appreciate it. but i'm still going to oppose this measure, and in fact, i had talked to senator langford about trying to work on something going forward, that could be bipartisan. a different date and a different proposal. i suggested it because i remembered when senator alexander and senator collins worked on some proposals on confirmations, that they made, futuristic in terms of the date, in which they took place. but instead, we have this proposal today.
many people refer to the senate, as the world's greatest deliberative body, because we know that it is an institution designed for careful and thoughtful consideration of both legislation and nominations. how we deliberate is governed, as we know, by a set of senate rules and only once in the history of the cloture process has the senate voted to permanently reduce the time we have to debate an issue. that happened in 1986, when we went from 100 hours of post-cloture debate time to the current rule of 30 hours. the resolution we are considering today asks us to make a second permanent change. so this is a big deal. >> it's not just a minor proposal that has suddenly come our way. last congress, we considered a proposal from senator langford to cut off debate on the senate floor. the resolution before us today goes eaven farther because it would reduet debate time from 30
hours to two hours, for the vast majority of nominees who come before the senate. let's face it. most americans aren't familiar with our arcane rules. but what they are familiar with is that they want more transparency. they're concerned about what's been going on in the white house in terms of some of these picks, and so it is our job to be that counter balance in the united states senate. this issue has real impact on real people's lives. why? well, if this passes, roughly 80% of all trump administration nominees will be able to be confirmed with just two hours of debate time. in minnesota, that's about the amount of time it takes to make a hot dish. but you can't really make that comparison, a hot dish, and a lifetime appointment. these are lifetime appointments for those district judges, and very key positions in the administration for the other
appointments. it's our constitutional duty to fully vet the most senior people in our government. the people who help ensure our air and water are clean, the people who lead our military, the people who oversee our justice system. it's our constitutional duty to fully vet our federal judges. these men and women who receive lifetime appointments to uphold the rule of law in america. on behalf of every american, it is our job to make sure the people who are nominated to the most senior positions in our government are competent and qualified. these rules are so important, that the rules of the senate are designed to ensure that the senators come to a bipartisan consensus about the people who assume them. the purpose is to reject partisanship so we can get nominees who will put the good of the country before the politics of their party. if we eliminate or greatly reduce this crucial check on our democracy, we will allow the
majority party to ram through appointments. those who support this resolution point to the fact that back in 2013, i was there then, the senate voted 78-16, to temporarily change the rules on post-cloture debate time. but it is very important to note that in 2013, the circumstances were very different than they are today. nominations back then required a 60-vote threshold. that's a very different circumstance than we're in right now. the blue slip process for judicial nominations was respected throughout, and a thorough process to select qualified judicial nominees was in place. despite all of this, important federal positions remained unfilled. even though qualified nominees were waiting to be confirmed. to address this issue, a bipartisan super-majority, back then, of the senate supported a
temporary change in the rules. that's not what we are talking about today. the idea that we are facing similar circumstances is not quite supported by the facts. here's the truth. nominees are getting confirmed. some at paces faster than we've seen in the past five presidencies. leader mcconnell himself highlighted the fact that senate republicans are quote closing in on the record for the most circuit court appointments in a president's first year in office. last year, president trump said quote, we put on the court a tremendous amount of great federal district court judges. we are setting records. that's a quote from the president. in addition to my service on this committee, i also serve on the judiciary committee where i've seen firsthand the pace at which presidential nominees are being processed. in the first two years of his presidency, president trump had 86 judges confirmed, compared to
just 62 for president obama, in the same time period. last congress, 53 district court judges were confirmed, compared to just 15 in president obama's first two years. president trump has had 30 circuit court nominees confirmed. this is more circuit nominees confirmed than any president ever in his first two years in office. when you look at the facts here, it is clear that as my republican colleagues have acknowledged, the previous congress accomplished a record-breaking year of advancing judicial nominees. now, many of us opposed a number of those nominees. but the facts are the facts. so this cry for this rule change at this moment is only because they want to ram even more nominees through. these facts tell us that it is unnecessary to change the rules of the senate right now. i agree that we should work to improve the functioning of the senate. as i have previously told
senator langford, this is something that we could consider right at this time, moving forward, for when a new president comes into office, so that we don't in fact, by doing it now, enhance the partisan atmosphere we're already in. this change is not just unnecessary, it may allow fundamentally unqualified candidates to be confirmed. the aba has rated six of the judicial nominations put forward by the administration as not qualified. including three who received that rating unanimously. in two years, more than 30 executive branch nominees and five federal judges have withdrawn after initial vetsing. and because nominees are being rushed through the committee process, post-cloture time is critical in evaluating nominees and fulfilling our duty to advise and consent. for the 78 senators who do not serve on the judiciary committee, post-close ur debate time can be a critical time to
talk to colleagues and staff about a judicial nominee's record. last year, two nominees were withdrawn from consideration during the 30 hours of post cloture debate, when facts about their past came under scrutiny. for example, the nomination of thomas far, eastern district, north carolina, was stalled after his work on laws that disenfranchise voters was revealed. including of course concern that came from the republican side of the aisle, in the post-cloture debate time period. the nomination of ryan bounds, ninth circuit oregon was withdrawn after his problematics writings were brought to light. i'm aware that the 30 hours is being held in place, under this proposal for circuit court judges, it just goes to show what that time means for all judges. nominees like these clearly demonstrate the importance of carefully and thoroughly considering nominees for executive branch positions, and life time appointments to the bench.
senator langford's legislation will remove important checks and balances from the nomination process. making it harder to properly vet, but easier to confirm unqualified nominees. that is not what the american people sent us here to do. at a time of blistering rhetoric, anger and divisiveness, this is no time to cede this chamber's ability to do its due diligence by removing the guardrails that help ensure judicial nominees have the qualifications for lifetime appointments to the federal bench. the senate's constitutional responsibility of advise and consent is too important to turn into a mere rubber stamp. the senate must remain a meaningful check and balance in our constitutional system. i strongly urge my colleagues to consider the dangers of this resolution. and to vote against it. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. further discussion? majority leader? >> yes, thank you, mr. chairman.
senator klobuchar i listened carefully to what you had to say. a couple of observations. much of what you were concerned about happened when you all were in the majority. the threshold for confirming all executive branch appointments except the supreme court was dropped to 51. no district court judge has ever been defeated by a fill bust ner the history of the country. no cabinet member has ever been defeated by a fill buster in the history of the country. the executive calendar is in crisis but let's talk about what the crisis is. it's largely unrelated to the judiciary. both sides put a lot of priority on the judiciary. you do. and we do. with regard to district court judges, there's not a single one that gets to the floor that doesn't have two blue slips
returned favorably, and so if 47 democratic senators that have a major role to play in what kind of district court judges are sent to the floor, the real crisis on the executive calendar is unrelated to the judiciary. it has to do with assistance secretaries of this, that, and the other. some of whom who have been sitting around for a year and a half, whose lives have been largely interrupted, who aren't controversial, but who cannot get processed. i'll give you an example. i offered the democratic leader a package of 150 nonjudicial, nonjudicial executive branch appointments that came out of committee, supported by both democrats and republicans. let me say that again. 150 nonjudicial executive branch appointments that came out of committee with democratic
support. in a package. and he rejected it. we had 30 district court judges. now, remember, every district court judge has a blue ship returned positively. 30 district district court judg tried to get the democratic leader to approve, 12 of whom came from either blue or purple states. in other words, in these blue states, the democratic senators had a major role to play in who got nominated. and they were rejected. frequently, we don't have this much of a problem because we're able to process personnel like this on a bipartisan basis with a personnel vote. that has not happened. chairman blunt pointed out i've had to file cloture 128 times in the previous congress in order to try to advance nominations.
you can go back six presidents before that one. cumulatively, whoever it was only had to file 24 times. the real crisis here, the administration itself below the cabinet level has an enormous number of vacancies. as chairman blunt pointed out, once we got the cloture on a number of these nominees, they aren't even controversial. it's pretty obviously the whole purpose is to eat up floor time. i think anytime you consider a rules change, you ought to think about when the shoe is on the other foot. so let's imagine a president, amy klobuchar. >> that's going to help me with my base, thank you. thank you, mitch. >> in 2021 in a democratic majority in the senate. as chairman blunt has pointed
out to us previously, our view at that point is going to be, well, we should act just like you did in the previous congress. so the genie never gets back in the bottle, whatever the new practice is becomes the practice in the future. regardless of who's in the white house and regardless of what the majority is in the senate, i just don't think it's fair in any way to continue the practice that we've seen on full display here. so i think what chairman blunt is recommending it in the best interest of the senate. i've heard a number of the members of the democratic party are all for it, provided it takes effect in 2021. i can understand that. but we are where we are. and now with regard to judges, we think that's important and
you think it's important. and we've processed these judges because i've put them at the front of the line. in other words, i had to make a decision to do a circuit judge instead of a whole lot of assistant secretaries of this, that or the other who have been sitting around forever wandering about their futures. i think it's time for the senate to change that practice before it becomes so pervasive that we never get the genie back in the bottle and whoever the next administration is can't even get staffed. i can't tell you how many cabinet secretaries called me, this is not the secretary of transportation, called me because they had people sitting around for a year and a half. i had one cabinet member call me the other day, this person has been sitting here for a year and a half. so mr. chairman, i think it's time to move. i was hoping we could do this on
a bipartisan basis. i don't think it in any way seriously disadvantages the minority. the biggest disadvantage they have with regard to circuit judges is they chose to lower the threshold a few years ago and we chose to leave it. to leave it where it is. and no district judge has ever been defeated about a filibuster in the history of the country. that's not a problem. every single one, i repeat again, has come out of judiciary after having two blue slips returned. why not pass those kind of nominees with only two hours post cloture. we really ought to be passing on a voice vote. i gave the democratic leader an opportunity to do that last year and he rejected it. >> mr. leader, again, we have put the idea forward to do this going forward. the model was actually one, based on what senator lamar alexander and senator collins did a few years back where they had this to be forward looking when we don't know who's going
to win the white house and you don't have the partisan nature of how this will be done. there is a difference between doing it this way and the temporary rules. one other point, i'll turn it over to senator durbin, we also know the white house has been slow in nominating people for these nonjudicial positions which is also contributed to a lot of unfilled positions. >> well, i don't want to prolong it, this is not a white house issue i'm talking about. i agree with you. they haven't sent them up here as quickly as possible. if they were sitting up here, they wouldn't be going anywhere. you know, look at what's happened here. >> i think the number of nominees are almost exactly the same that were submitted during the first two years. the difference is, almost 75% of the obama nominees were confirmed and right at 50% of the trump nominees were confirm confirmed. they both sent up within a couple of dozen the same number of people. this is not a white house problem. this is our problem of not
processing these in a way that meets any standard of reasonableness, particularly the people who have been dominated. most people are not nominated for a lifetime job. they're nominated for a job that, at best, is likely to last an administration and we spend months and months and months putting them on hold, making them fill out all kinds of forms, make all kinds of disclosures only to find out that they're starved out or disappointed out of ever getting the job because the senate won't deal with the nominations. senator durbin. >> thanks, mr. chairman. and let me make a few comments here. you're my friend and my neighbor and we've worked closely together on many things and we will continue to. but the opening statement you made, i think, has to be quoted again when you said never before have we seen this record of obstruction. i would have to say that what
came to a vacancy on the supreme court, we saw a record of obstruction unheard of in the senate. when, in fact, a nominee wasn't given an opportunity to even meet with senators, let alone be heard before a committee for an entire year. we all know that. and it was a conscious decision made by the majority leader to deny us the ordinary sinatra decision of filling this vacancy. and it has created, of course, some hard feelings because it was consciously done in the hopes that your party would win the next presidential election and you did. and having done that, filled a vacancy which customer airily would have been filled by the previous president. that's a fact. and so when we talk about records of instruction, i think the record's been broken at the highest level. it's something we reflect on as we look at the prospect of
reducing the time when we will consider nominees for lifetime positions. and as you just said, mr. chairman, most nominations don't relate to lifetime positions, certainly the judicial nominations do. and as you look at the record on the time taken for consideration of judicial nominees, you wonder why we're here discussing this langford rule proposal. it is clearly a solution in search of a problem. it is a reform in search of an abuse. who said just recently, in fact, last week, said that we have had a record number of lawyers the senate has confirmed on the federal bench since the trump inauguration. the person who said that is sitting to your left, senator mcconnell, the republican leader. in fact, president trump's first two years, the senate has confirmed 85 article iii judges, 62 were confirmed during the same period under president obama. the number of judges confirmed in the 115th congress was nearly
four times as many as the number confirmed in the 114th congress. that's no argument for changing the rules. and i think as you look more closely here, the obvious question as well, how many of these judges, judicial candidates are being held up for 30 hours? how many candidates at all are being held up for debate? the senate rarely uses all 30 post cloture -- on nominations. often it's on time that work best for both caucuses. according to the congressional research service, jeff sessions is the only nomination in the last two years where almost all of the 30 hours of debate were used. secretary pruitt who left under extraordinary circumstances was next with 24 hours and 55 minutes of debate time. the vast majority of nominees have been confirmed with less than ten hours of debate. on november 7th, 2018, senator
mcconnell told mcklatchy news in the 116th congress, quote, i don't think we'll have any trouble finding time to do nominations. does that sound like a compelling reason to change the rules of the senate? i don't think so. what it boils down to is, when we're talking about lifetime nominations as senator cruz snows on judiciary committee, we go through a regular process and ask questions. there are times when trump nominees don't cut mustard. take a look at what i refer to our colleagues, senator john kennedy, aka professor kennedy, on the judiciary committee who asked several nominees pointed questions. why ask the questions? because they never darkened the door of i courtroom and they wanted a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. they failed the kennedy exam. one of them withdrew almost immediately thereafter. the list goes on and on.
there's reason for us to take time on judicial nominees. we shouldn't abuse it but be careful in doing it. we have given this president more nominees certainly than the previous president, president obama. and i don't think we've abused the situation. to include the judicial nominees in the langford rule change, senator langford's rule change, is entirely unnecessary. i hope we don't do it. >> would the senator yield for a question. >> i'd be happy to. >> the reason we pick two hours for district justices, that's exactly what harry reid wanted when we did a standing order. it originated on your side of the aisle. secondly, i wonder if the senator from illinois would address what i was talking about, which was not judicial nominees but subcabinet appointments to the administration. >> on the january 2013 negotiated rules change was temporary, as senator reid
proposed it be temporary. this langford proposal is permanent. as for the subcabinet nominees, senator, you know what the problem is and was. it was a vacancy, a democratic vacancy on the national labor relations board. we've had this discussion with the president, have we not? just a few weeks ago in the cabinet room. when senator schumer said he had tried to bend in your direction in the hopes that they could get the one democratic nominee through, gave you a number of nominees for approval and then it didn't happen. now, i understand the gentleman in question has withdrawn his name at this point. there may, an opportunity to fill that vacancy. i think it would create good will that has been missing for the first two years when it comes to subcabinet nominees. >> with regard to that particular nominee, the challenge was getting enough votes to pass it.
what senator schumer has with president trump is the same understanding i have of president obama, if the statute says republican, i would send president obama a name. on a couple of occasions, he didn't want to appoint them. fine, i'd send him another name. that's what i recommended to the democratic leader with regard to this particular individual. so the level of comedy here is way out of whack, way out of whack. the administration is going to honor that agreement but that particular individual, senator schumer, experienced the same thing i did with a couple of names i sent to president obama that simply weren't acceptable. >> i've taken too much time. i apologize, but i do want to respond to the republican leader. you have a veteran of the senate.
you are a good vote counter. you are a very persuasive leader. finding three or four republican votes for a democratic nominee is not beyond your reach. as senator schumer has found some democratic votes when necessary to establish the comedy we both want to see. why are we considering a permanent rules change in the senate to resolve this? we know it isn't necessary when it comes to judges. we don't use the 30 hours. when it comes to subcabinet post, i can't guarantee what the outcome will be but time and again, senator schumer said there's been one sticking point. we both know what it is. if we can get beyond that, perhaps we can return to solving this without a permanent rules change. >> senator alexander. >> thank you, mr. chairman. to my friend from illinois, i've heard a lot about merrick garland.
there's the thurman leahy rule. for years we've not confirmed supreme court nominees after about june before presidential elections. democrats said that, republicans said that. it's true that senator mcconnell advanced that about six weeks. merrick garland was nominated in march. he might have been confirmed in may. so there's a certain amount of -- six weeks of indignation might be due, but it's not enough for what we see today in the senate. let me go back to the question the chairman raised. i count nearly nine members of the senate who may be candidates for president. in about 20 months they hope they'll be there. do you not think at least one republican senator will do to your nominees what you've done to president trump's? here's the practice. senator mcconnell puts down a cloture vote on monday because he has to. he's been -- one senator has objected to his moving ahead
with the tva board member, a part-time noncontroversial position. we don't vote on tuesday on that. we do vote on wednesday on that. and then there's up to 30 hours and the senator from illinois is right, we haven't taken 30, we've taken an average of 6. we're into wednesday night after starting on monday for a noncontroversial tva board member. that's happened 128 times in the first two years. if a really energetic republican senator wanted to apply that procedure to all 1,200 nominees of the new democratic president, that would take 23 years to staff the government. that has to change. 120 times for trump, 12 times for obama, 4 times for george w. bush, 12 for clinton, none for h.w. bush, two of our district judges, 10 months, 11 months on the calendar, tva members
sitting there, a u.s. marshal who served before, no controversy, took more than a year. this diminishes the advice and consent role of the senate at the time when the executive is more powerful, we end up with an executive filled with acting nominees who we have who have no accountability to us. can republican senators change this? yes, we can. the senate did in 1959 when senator hutchison changed a rule on legislating on appropriations bills. senator reed did it. it's like a referee saying a first down is ten yards but i'm going to call it nine. should we do it? no we shouldn't. we should change it by a bipartisan majority and we should do it now. as senator levins said, a majority that -- when a senate majority can change the rules
any time, it's a senate without any rules. president jefferson said it doesn't matter what your rules are, you just need rules. it's an awkward position for the chief rulemaking body to be not following its own written rules and expecting the rest of the country to do it. what should we do? we should do what the senate did in 1995 with the hutchison president. the senate came back and changed it by more than 60 votes. we should do what we did in 2011, '12 and '13, i volunteered to help president obama make it easier for presidents to confirm nominees. unlike what the ranking members said, we did it immediately. i didn't say it should shall we should wait till the next president, we abolished secret holds immediately. we reduced the number of hours to re-legislation immediately. privileged nominations, 272 of them in 60 days.
streamline confirmation for 3,000 noncontroversial nominations, 163 nominations in 60 days. the rules changed to speed up cloture, immediately. going to conference, immediately. speed up motion to proceed with four amendments, immediately. standing order like the one we're discussing today at senator reid's request, 8 hours for subcabinet members, his question, 2 hours for judges. that's what we should do. do it the right way. i'm waiting for my democratic friends to show the same kind of bipartisan spirit i tried show in '11, '12 and '13. i didn't suggest we wait until the next presidential election. so i'm voting to move this out today because it has to change. i'm still waiting to are that expression of bipartisan spirit, if someone's got an improvement on the resolution senator blunt suggested, i'll be glad to talk with you about it when it goes
to the floor. but this is a terrible -- for the senate. it sets up a government of acting nominees. make no mistake, republicans can change this and will. i would prefer that we do it the way i worked with you to do it in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and that we do it immediately because it needs to take effect immediately. the question is of the nine running for president, do they really think -- can they not think of one republican senator who will dibble down on what you've done to president trump? you won't be able to form a government if it we leave this in place. >> senator. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. let me just first say, i fully associate myself with senator klobuchar's remarks. i think she hit it right on the
head. senator alexander, i liked working with you in the past on rules reform. i think one of the things we've learned over the years in rules reform is the best time to do rules reform is at the beginning of a congress. the beginning of a congress. if you change the rules in the middle of a congress, you get ill will, you get bitterness. you get hard feelings and it hurts our ability to work with each other. and so, if this was such a crisis, we should have at the beginning of this congress taken it up and tried to deal with it in a bipartisan way. i've worked on rules issues since i've been here since 2009. we proposed a package of reforms that benefited both the majority and the minority. and today's proposal benefits only the majority and the majority is looking to rush it through without expert testimony, without the kind of hearings we've had.
i don't think that's the way to go. i have a much longer statement. i think we've kind of beat this mule to death here. i would just ask, number one, to put my statement in the record, mr. chairman, my full statement. >> without objection. >> and also put in the record this trump administration record of poorly vetted nominees and positions left vacant. this is a two-page list. according to "the washington post," as of monday, there are currently 143 senate confirmed positions out of the 706 that do not even have a nominee. so i don't think the problem's here. i think if you go through this and look, withdrawn executive nominations, withdrawn judicial nominations, defeated nominations, and major vacancy caused by administration reshuffling, they've got a real problem. i think we ought to be dealing with the rules in a bipartisan way. thank you very much.
>> i will say, again, that i think the numbers of the nominations have been put forward are almost equal. this is not a failure to have nomine. this is a failure to process nominees. i'd also point out this is the first meeting of this committee. we just adopted out rules harder to get earlier in a congress than this. any further discussion, senator roberts? >> i want to take a look at this from the standpoint of what passed here in the last session. and that was the farm bill, 12 titles, 87 votes, set a record. and cloture was not filed on the conference report because everybody agreed. why did they agree? that's because we came together, the agriculture committee with senators working very hard. in that committee we don't ram through anybody. i would not bring a nominee up for consideration unless the
senator agreed. senator klobuchar knows that. there's one nominee i can think of since i've had the privilege of being chairman that we felt should not be confirmed. and that was the case. the reason i'm bringing this up, we have cftc folks who have been nominated, one democrat, one republican, they sail through the committee. three more are waiting. they are key with regards to the implementation of this farm bill, given the tough times we're facing in farm country. now, if our committee was able to come together with the farm bill and our committee is now considering nominees that are waiting in line, on a bipartisan basis, i don't see why on earth we have to file cloture or just have these people just wait in line. these are the very people that are supposed to implement the farm bill to help farmers, ranchers and growers during this very difficult time.
that's my biggest consideration. i take a little umbrage in saying we're ramming people through when that's not the case, at least with the committee i serve on. i'd also add in the farm bill there was an amendment by senator durbin, the durbin-roberts bill. we welcome him to the committee. he is a veteran with regards to agriculture program legislation and welcome the committee where we don't ram anything through and we do it on a bipartisan basis. i don't know why we can't do that with other committees and most we are. the end result is, we are hurting the people. >> i agreed with most of what you say about the ag committee. you did a tremendous job working with all of us, got a very strong bill through and a number of secretary purdue's nominees i have supported and you have supported.
and that's been positive. i think it's not been that way at every level. so thank you. >> i would say before i turn to senator cruz, just for the record, as of february 11th in the obama administration, 1,278 people have been nominated, 923, that's about 72% or 73%, i think, were confirmed in the trump administration, 1,402 have been nominated, 714 have been confirmed. this is not a problem of not having nominees. senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have to say as i listened to the impassioned remarks from our democratic colleagues, what they're saying and the umbrage they're expressing, seems to be in substantial conflict with the facts. what i'd like to do is ask you, mr. chairman, a few points of
clarification so someone watching this hearing can understand the basic facts. i want to ask five questions. first of all, am i correct that the rule proposal being put toward is very similar to the proposal supported by harry reid and our democratic colleagues for president obama and with respect to district judges, with two-hour time frame is identical to the proposal put forth by harry reid and our democratic colleagues for president obama, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> okay. that seems relevant because we heard speeches about how district court judges are terribly important and somehow two hours is an abuse of process in ramming them through. yet it is identical to the standard the democrats supported for harry reid and president obama. second question. we heard reference to the blue slip. and that there was the reason this was an abuse here is the
blue slip. now, it is true that the blue slip practice has changed for court of appeals nominees. but the proposal being put forth doesn't impact court of appeals nominees. it still allows 30 hours post cloture for court of appeals nominees. my second question is, is it correct that the blue slip policy the judiciary committee is identical, exactly the same as it was under democrats when they adopted the two-hour rule for district judges? >> not on the judiciary committee but my belief is it's identical. >> yes, that's correct. >> a third question. we have heard democrats say how wonderful it is that the senate has managed to confirm judges, but is it not correct that we have seen unprecedented delay and obstruction from senate
democrats, delay and obstruction that has no comparable analogue in the history of the senate, and to give specifics, in the first congress, for each of the preceding presidents, when bill clinton was president, the first congress, there were a total of four cloture votes on his nominees. for george w. bush, likewise for the first congress, a total of four cloture votes is on his nominees. for barack obama it increased a little bit. it went from four to ten. and yet for donald trump, senate democrats have forced not four cloture votes or ten cloture votes, 127 cloture votes for president trump, delay and obstruction that is truly unprecedented. is that correct, mr. chairman? >> i believe there are 127 individuals and 128 cloture votes for that 127 individuals.
>> it's even worse than i asked. >> even worse. >> a fourth question. senator from illinois referenced the merrick garland vacancy as the justification for this unprecedented delay and obstruction from senate democrats. but is it correct, mr. chairman, that merrick garland's nomination occurred in the year of a presidential election? it has been over 80 years since the senate confirmed a supreme court nominee for a vacancy that occurred in the year of a presidential election. and the senate followed the joe biden rule, namely, the rule that joe biden articulated when george w. bush was president, which was that the senate would not take up a supreme court nomination for a vacancy that occurred during a presidential year. so what the senate followed, joe
biden's own rule, is all of that correct, mr. chairman? >> i believe 1932 is the last time a supreme court vacancy was filled. >> i assume joe biden, all would recognize, is not a republican partisan. >> would the senator from texas field just as an observation. >> you'd have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a senate of a different party from the president filled a vacancy on the supreme court when the vacancy occurred during the presidential year. >> and mr. chairman -- >> senator from texas yield for a question. >> sure. >> you've been very careful in your language. the vacancy that senator -- that justice anthony kennedy filled in a presidential election year occurred in the previous year. >> it did. >> but the actual vote was taken in the presidential year. >> but the vacancy was created in 1987. >> and as senator alexander has
noted, before then, it wasn't the biden rule driving the train, it was the thurmond rule which was violated when merrick garland wasn't given a chance for a hearing. >> well, i will note that in the explanation, the senator from illinois didn't dispute that the biden rule, very explicitly said a supreme court vacancy that occurs in a presidential year will not be taken up by the senate. that's what we followed. joe biden became vice president under president obama as everyone knows. that was his rule and yet today, senate democrats treat following the biden rule and following centuries of tradition and practice as the senate as somehow a great outreach. so the final question, mr. chairman, i want to understand. i ranking member, if i heard her correctly, said that she agrees with the substance of the
proposal and that -- i think i wrote it down correctly -- she disagrees with the badate. this is a rule that makes sense, her only disagreement, my understanding is this is the position of most if not every democrat in the senate, they agree on the substance, they agree it's fair but the one thing they want to change is it cannot apply to donald trump. somehow donald trump is special, they'll agree to it if it applies to whoever is elected in the next presidential election, whether it's trump or somebody else. is that correct, that they agree on -- >> can i answer myself, senator cruz? >> -- to the current president? is that correct? >> i did not concede the substance. i simply said i would have liked to work with senator langford on a proposal that could be similar that would take effect later so that it could be held harmless. so whatever party wins, we would be under the same rules.
we don't know who's going to win. the point is, where we are were merrick garland is exhibit "a." >> i agree. merrick garland is exhibit "a" for the biden rule. >> the position has been open for months and months and months. you waited until after the election. that has brought us to where we are now. i'd like to fix it. i like when things move efficiently, very much. i think there's ways we could do this going forward. i do want to let our last remaining democratic senator who's here, senator cort cortez-masto. >> i echo the comments from senator klobuchar. i have too been listening. thank you for this debate. it's very informative. let me interject here, somebody
new to the united states senate, somebody who wasn't here when joe biden was here. the rule change you all voted for. i did not. i think we need to get back to bipartisan working together. that's the way the senate works. that's the way i was taught growing up in history classes and respect this body. that's why i was sent here on behalf of the people of nevada. what i have heard now is an us versus them, rs versus d. that does not help back in my state, particularly when we're looking at a federal bench that is in crisis because we are not putting people on the federal bench. i don't think the answer is speeding up the process. because i guess, this is a point of clarification, if i -- all due respect to the majority leader, who i have a lot of respect for -- but what i heard was the real crisis is unrelated to the judiciary. i'm not quite sure why the judiciary then is brought into this resolution.
i think for our purposes, in particular, for mine as an attorney, as the attorney general, i have a deep respect and appreciation for our federal judiciary. i think the american public must be able to trust that our federal judges will be fair and neutral arbiters of any dispute before them, not that they come from a democrat or republican, that they are trusted that we are looking out for equal justice for everyone. here's why i have concerns about rushing this process. i do not sit on senate judiciary committee. i want the opportunity to fairly vet and evaluate and do the research for these judges. two hours is not going to give me that time. most importantly, what i have watched as this has been rushed through, there are times where i have seen in the past two district court nominees who after they were nominated and reported out of the judiciary committee, there were serious concerns about their personal,
professional backgrounds. brett tally was one of them. it came off he concealed is his blog post defending the kkk and disparaging the victims of the sandy hook massacre. he failed to disclose that his wife worked in the office of the white house counsel. thomas farr, he may have mislead the judiciary committee about his role -- while serving on jesse helms' senate campaign. there is a role and it is important that the vetting process take place. i do not believe that judges should be rushed through this process. these are lifetime appointments. i've appeared before these judges as an attorney. it is important that we elect judges to protect the integrity of that branch of government that is treating equal justice for everyone. i don't want anybody becoming before any federal bench thinking are you a democrat, are you a republican, are you right of center? that's outrageous to me. we need to make sure that the
people in our states know we are looking out for the best interests when they are appearing in a court or we are thoroughly vetting the judges that are going to make decisions on behalf of individuals and the businesses every single day. for that reason i cannot support this. i do not believe that the judges should be rushed. and i would encourage my colleagueses to really consider what we are doing here. these are lifetime appointments. >> mr. chairman if i could very briefly since a question was posed to me about why the district judges were included. two reasons. number one, that was what was in the standing order that passed in 2013. number two, there are 47 democratic senators. the blue slip for district judges is still in place. there won't be a district judge on the floor of the senate from any blue or purple state. that hadn't been approved by a democrat pick senator.
>> thank you. i appreciate those comments but i also hear that oftentimes the blue slips are disregarded. and so i appreciate the comment from the majority leader today. if that is something that is set in stone and we don't have to worry about in the future, that's great. but i hear constantly that they are not being respected. that is a concern. but, again, it goes back to the idea that when we are fighting for our communities, we've got to get beyond this idea that it's rs and ds, particularly when it comes to justice and the way to do that is thoroughly vetting and allowing the debate to occur for these lifetime appointments. thank you. >> my impress is for district judges, the two-hour judges that blue slips are being honored and also the intervening day, after a name is called up, even under this proposal, the vote doesn't occur for well over 30 hours after it's called up, if you use
the intervening day which we would still have. it would be my inclination to vote. are there further -- >> i'd like to add something to the record. >> yes. >> the ranking members suggested that i had worked in 2011, 2012 and '13 to change the rules for the next president. that's not correct. i want to put into the record the specific provisions that the senate adopted by bipartisan approval in 2013, 2012 and 2011, '12 and '13 with the date of their adoption and they included what i mentioned earlier, removal of the secret holds, fewer excessive reading of reviewing legislation, privileged nominations and streamline nominations were within 60 days of june 2011.
and then the remainder of the changes in '13 were all immediate. they were to speed up cloture on the motion to proceed, speed up the process for going to conference, optional process to speed up the four amendments and the provision that is much like, almost exactly like, the provision we're voting on today. i think it's important that people know that then there was a bipartisan effort involving leaders of both parties to make it easier for presidents to confirm their nominees and that we did that for the current president, president obama, at the request of the current majority leader who was senator reid at the time. >> enter into the record without objection, senator klobuchar. >> thank you. i remember senator alexander that the discussion was about how some of that effort was made before the election so we could get people on board without knowing who's going to win the
election. i remember you specifically saying to me, that this is something where we -- while you are obviously correct when it was voted through, but the effort was made around the time of the election before we knew who was going to win. there was just discussions about that. >> that was another time when senator schumer was looking at a time right before the election to do something and nothing happened. all these things i'm talking about happened. the reason i'm sensitive about it, i was a volunteer -- i was a republican volunteer. >> you were. >> to help the democratic president and a democratic majority leader, make it easier to do that. we made some very important changes that i think helped the senate. >> senator durbin. >> i promise to be brief but i'd like to make this point. simply receiving blue slips is certainly a political courtesy but no guarantee of qualification for the federal bench. so far, six trump nominees have received not qualified ratings from the american bar association including two oklahoma district court nominees
and two circuit court nominees, four of those not qualified nominees have been confirmed. simply receiving a blue slip does not absolve any nominee or certainly not the senate, from its responsibility to ask questions for a lifetime appointment and two hours would hardly be enough time. >> mr. chairman, a very brief point of clarification. a number of democratic members of this committee have complained that this proposal is a permanent rule change rather than a temporary rule change. it would seem to me if we were evaluating this on the merits, that would be a benefit and not a detriment of this proposal, because these rules will apply to whoever is elected president in 2020. it will apply if a republican is elected, it will apply if a democrat is elected. these are rules designed to stop the unprecedented delay and obstruction and these rules would serve, if a democrat wins in 2020, these rules would serve
to protect that democratic president's prerogative from delay and obstruction. i would suggest, in fact, a temporary provision would be exactly the opposite and it really does highlight the remarkable position the democrats are taking on this committee, that they're fine with the permanent solution as long as it doesn't apply to trump. they want a special rule excluding the current president of the united states because they disagree. >> i want to thank senator cruz for looking out for our interests. thank you so much. >> were there amendments? if there are no further amendments or further debate, the questions on ordering the resolution favorably reported in the opinion of the chair we probably should determine that a roll call vote be taken. interest in a roll call vote? a third of the members. >> senator mcconnell. >> yes. >> senator alexander. >> aye. >> senator shelby. >> aye. >> senator roberts.
>> aye. >> senator cruz. >> aye. >> senator capito. >> aye. >> senator wicker. >> aye by proxy. >> senator fischer. >> aye. >> senator hidesmith. >> aye. >> senator klobuchar. >> no. >> senator feinstein. >> no by proxy. >> senator schumer. >> no by proxy. >> senator durbin. senator durbin. senator udall. >> no by proxy. >> senator warner. >> no by proxy. >> senator leahy. >> no by proxy. >> senator king. >> no by proxy. >> senator cortez masto. chairman blunt. >> chairman blunt votes yes. >> the ayes are ten, the nos are nine.
again, c-span 3, live at the library of congress for a conversation with u.s. supreme court justice sonia sotomayor. we're expecting this to start shortly. running a little behind schedule here. also just a note that the senate is currently voting on the government funding and border security bill, 60 votes needed. you can watch under way on c-span2 live. word from the white house that president trump intends to sign the measure and will also declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern u.s. border. we'll keep you posted here and on the c-span networks for the latest developments. waiting for u.s. supreme court justice sonia sotomayor in conversation here, live in washington, d.c.
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