Posted: 4:29 pm Monday, January 9th, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
As the first two nominees of President-Elect Donald Trump go before U.S. Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Democrats admit they have little chance to derail any of those nominees, unless GOP Senators turn against one of Mr. Trump’s picks, all because of a Senate rules change engineered in 2013 to help President Obama.
When Democrats used the “nuclear option” to take away a 60 vote requirement to end filibusters against administration nominees, that not only helped Mr. Obama – but now it will greatly aid Mr. Trump as well.
#TrumpCabinet confirmation & 2013 Democrat elimination of confirmation filibuster reminds us that politicians like CEOs take short term view
— randal smith (@randalsmith) January 7, 2017
“I argued against it at the time,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer admitted in a recent interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. “I said for both Supreme Court and Cabinet, it should be sixty.”
“I wish it hadn’t happened,” Schumer added with a frustrated look on his face.
The issue has been mentioned often in the hallways of the Capitol in recent days, as Democrats rail against Trump nominees, but have little chance to do anything about it, as Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.
“Do you regret that Harry Reid went nuclear with the filibuster?” a reporter asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) last week.
“At the time, he had no choice,” Durbin said.
Durbin left our small group of reporters without really directly answering that question, though other Democrats have openly acknowledged that it now feels like a mistake.
“The filibuster no longer acts as an emergency brake,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) admitted to CNN after the November elections.
“I do regret that,” Coons added.
Democrats can still drag their feet and slow things down – it is the Senate after all – but if Republicans stick together, the Trump Cabinet should be approved.
If Republicans had to deal with a 60 vote requirement on Cabinet nominations, it certainly might have changed who was picked by Mr. Trump.
But the rules did change – and Republicans stand to benefit in 2017.
And Trump’s supporters are very pleased.
The good news is that thanks to Harry Reid's instigation of the "nuclear option" in 2013, Democrats have no power to deny #Trump's picks.😬
— Scott (@retiredfirecapt) January 5, 2017
For now, the filibuster remains on Supreme Court nominations; that seems likely to be a flash point later on this year.
@jamiedupree Mr. Dupree: Who is up for confirmation this week & which ones will sail through and which one will the Dems try to stop? Thanks
— RW Buhl (@RWBuhl) January 9, 2017
There are three days of confirmation hearings scheduled for this week, though a number of votes on the Senate floor about the budget could get in the way of some of these hearings:
TUESDAY JANUARY 10
+ 9:30 am Sen. Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) – Senate Judiciary
+ 3:30 pm John Kelley (Homeland Security) – Homeland Security & Government Affairs
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11
+ 9:15 am Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State) – Foreign Relations
+10:15 am Elaine Chao (Transportation) – Senate Commerce
+ A hearing scheduled on Wednesday for Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was postponed until next week.
THURSDAY JANUARY 12
+ 9:30 am James Mattis (Defense) – Senate Armed Services
+10:00 am Wilbur Ross (Commerce) – Senate Commerce
+10:00 am Michael Pompeo (CIA) – Senate Intelligence
+10:30 am Ben Carsonn (HUD) – Senate Banking
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.