Democratic Obstructionism Needs To End

Handout via Reuters

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association
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Senate Democrats are obstructing and delaying President Trump’s nominees on an unprecedented scale, merely to score political points with their increasingly liberal base.

Last month, President Trump claimed that the confirmation process for his cabinet had been “record-setting long — and I mean record-setting long — with some of the finest people in our country being delayed and delayed and delayed.”  Trump’s cabinet nominees were pending with the Senate for 25 days, on average, compared to zero to two days, on average, for the last three presidents.  Fourteen of them went through the cloture process, compared to just seven of President Obama’s cabinet nominees during his entire tenure.  Even the Washington Post recognized that Trump has “faced unusually sustained opposition for a new president” and gave his claim a rare Geppetto Checkmark, reserved for claims that are “surprisingly correct.”

As President, Trump’s greatest accomplishment to date has been keeping his promise to voters to nominate a Supreme Court justice in the mold of Justice Scalia by nominating Neil Gorsuch with unprecedented transparency.  Despite Gorsuch’s qualifications and reputation, Democrats obstructed his nomination for mere political purposes.  They baselessly attacked his character and misrepresented his extensive judicial record to play politics. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to invoke the so-called nuclear option for now-Justice Gorsuch to receive an up-or-down vote from the Senate.  Since his confirmation, Justice Gorsuch has proven to be exactly the kind of justice a true review of his record predicted, one with immense respect for the rule of law and the text of statutes and regulations.

The success of the Gorsuch nomination and confirmation has not stopped Democrats from trying to replay and expand their obstruction of nearly every subsequent judicial and agency nominee President Trump has named. 

Here’s how it goes: President Trump nominates an exceptionally well-qualified and well-respected person to a position in his administration or the federal judiciary.  Senate Democrats delay the nomination as much as possible.  Democrats and the left attack the person’s character, portray mainstream conservative views as radical and un-American, and misrepresent his or her record in an attempt to score political points.  Senate Republicans, recognizing the nominee’s stellar qualifications, support the nominee and finally confirm him or her after Senate Democrats have exhausted all of their procedural delay tactics.  Once confirmed, the nominee proves to be an excellent public servant who upholds the Constitution.

As proof of these tactics, the White House provided some disturbing statistics on Monday to illustrate how Senate Democrats are following through with their promise to “obstruct the will of the American people and the President’s agenda” by delaying and opposing qualified nominees.  Only 48 of 197 agency nominees, and only 2 of 23 judicial nominees, have thus far been confirmed.  Only 10 percent of President Trump’s nominees have been confirmed by voice vote, compared to more than 90 percent of President Obama’s nominees at this point in his first term.  Senate Republicans have had to invoke cloture, with its accompanying delays, 30 times compared to 8 times for President Obama’s nominees.

No Democratic senator has returned a blue slip, a Senate tradition allowing senators to give approval for a judicial nominee from their state to move forward, for any of President Trump’s judicial nominees.  Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen was nominated to the Sixth Circuit back on May 8.  Michigan voters re-elected Justice Larsen with 57 percent of the vote in 2016, and she is widely respected.  Yet Michigan has two Democrat senators, and her nomination may be delayed so that they can toe the party line laid down by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Only three of Trump’s nominee’s to the U.S. Department of Justice have been confirmed.  Rachel Brand was confirmed as Associate Attorney General after three and a half months, despite concerted efforts to find “dirt” on her. In the end, all the Democrats could find to disparage her was that she was a conservative woman.  If Senate Republicans delayed the nomination of a universally praised woman nominated by a Democrat President to a high position for so long, hang-wringing and allegations of misogyny would have been all over the mainstream news and on social media. 

Rod Rosenstein was nominated to be Deputy Attorney General on the same day, but he was confirmed weeks before Ms. Brand.  Both have exceptional qualifications and are highly respected attorneys, but Democrats additionally delayed Ms. Brand because she disrupted their narrative of the anti-women Republicans.  Noel Francisco’s nomination to be solicitor general, the number three position in the Justice Department, has been pending since April 24.  Mr. Francisco is similarly well-qualified and well-respected.

Most recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has signaled that Democrats intend to engage in wholesale obstruction of all U.S. Attorney nominees.  U.S. Attorneys play vital roles in our system of justice, serving as the chief federal prosecutor in their districts.  With increasing violence in some areas and the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, U.S. Attorneys have important work to do to investigate and prosecute crimes that threaten some of our most vulnerable communities.  But these priorities apparently matter less to Senate Democrats than scoring political points against President Trump. 

In a meeting today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is taking up five judicial nominations, two Department of Justice nominations, and one U.S. Attorney nomination.  The result of this meeting will be telling, and the American public should watch closely and let Democrat senators know they are against obstruction of qualified nominees in the Senate.

This pattern of thoughtless Democrat obstruction has extended to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity as well.  Liberals have criticized the commission since President Trump first floated it and have continually dismissed its would-be report as worthless before the study has even begun.  They have attacked any Democrat willing to participate and declared that no real Democrat would assist the commission in any way.  And yet somehow liberals still find a way to  complain about a lack of Democrat influence and participation on the commission.

Democrats are traditionally the party of big government, looking to government for solutions to all of life’s problems, big and small.  But what we have learned since President Trump took office is that Democrats only look to the government when they are in control of it.  They are perfectly happy to obstruct government’s operation—and ignore the will of the people as expressed through our system of representative government—when they do not control the levers of power.