While there is talk about shutting down the federal government in the news again, the fact of the matter is the Democrats in the Senate have been trying to effectively shut down the government since President Trump started in office. They have done so by refusing to confirm or delaying the confirmation of many of President Trump’s nominees for Executive Branch positions and judicial vacancies.
How bad is the situation? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently stated: “If this continues it will take us more than 11 years to confirm the remaining presidential appointment[s].“ Statistics back this up, with almost four times as many nominees confirmed during President Obama’s first six months as President Trump’s.
Sometimes this is just plain ridiculous. Democrat Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow delayed returning their blue slips for highly qualified Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, nominated for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. While there are different definitions of blue slips, they are basically a vehicle to give home state Senators an opportunity to opine on a nominee. Larsen had just been reelected by over 57% of the people in Michigan. There is absolutely no reason for the delay as Judge Larsen is extremely well known and well respected and was even mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee by President Trump.
Of course, possible Presidential candidate and Democrat Senator from Minnesota Al Franken has arguably taken it one step further. Franken has still not returned his blue slip for Eighth Circuit nominee and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. Stras was actually elected with a higher percentage of the vote in Minnesota than Franken in either of his Senate races. Yet Franken continues to sit on his blue slip for Stras.
To be clear, it is not just that the Democrats are delaying, they are attacking nominees at an unprecedented level. This started with President Trump’s cabinet. Even The Washington Post admitted President Trump was not exaggerating when he stated his cabinet nominees had been treated the worst of any President in history.
A great example of Democrats’ effort to hurt the government instead of raising real opposition to the merits of the nominees is their treatment of their former colleague and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Democrats, who had previously been happy to work with then-Senator Sessions and consider him a colleague, attempted to attach a narrative of racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws to Sessions, without anything in his record to substantiate their claims. Instead, Sessions’ record showed a history of fighting against racial discrimination. But that did not stop the Democrats from erecting a straw man and attacking him as an excuse to delay action on Sessions’ nomination for attorney general.
After voting to oppose Sessions’ confirmation in lock step (except for Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia), relying on their false accusations of racism, Senate Democrats joined the Republicans in applauding after he was confirmed. One of the leaders in the applause was Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who clapped for over 30 seconds for the man he just voted against for being racist.
It is no wonder that good people are not willing to endure Democrats’ name-calling, character assassination, and delays in the confirmation process. Miguel Estrada, one of the most distinguished appellate lawyers in the country whose D.C. Circuit nomination battle lasted over three years, stated when his name was mentioned as being a possible nominee for Solicitor General: “I would never accept a job that requires Senate confirmation or, for that matter, willingly place myself in any situation (e.g., a hearing room) in which convention requires that I be civil to Chuck Schumer.”
Estrada was the first appellate court nominee in our nation’s long history to be filibustered multiple times. The Democrats’ stated reason was that no one would present his work product from his time as Deputy Solicitor General. What is worse is the real reason why he was filibustered. Under the leadership of Senator Ted Kennedy and current Minority Whip Dick Durbin, Senate Democrats opposed Estrada because of his race, as confidential memos between the staffs of those Senators confirmed. The Democrats feared that the conservative Estrada may one day be a Supreme Court nominee and fabricated an argument that was rejected by all living solicitors general of both parties.
The problem of nomination obstruction is especially dire when compared with the rapidly growing number of judicial vacancies. Since President Trump was elected, the number of judicial vacancies has increased by 1/3. President Trump’s judicial choices need to be confirmed.
The situation is so bad that Senate Democrat allies have even taken to attacking the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Above the Law blog recently called the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chief Nomination Counsel a “f–king d—b-g” for quitting his solo practitioner firm to come to Washington to serve the country.
Unlike President Trump, who has mentioned a temporary government shutdown to fix a problem, Senate Democrats have tried to permanently hinder the government for all of President Trump’s term. The Democrats disagree with the decision of the people last November, so they are seeking to overrule it through every means possible, from distracting with constant, unsubstantiated harping on Russian election collusion to delaying and attacking qualified and well-respected nominees.
Sadly, the result is that the will of the people is what is actually obstructed and the people are prevented from receiving the government for which they voted.