WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) released the following statement regarding Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to change the rules of the U.S. Senate to limit post-cloture debate for lower level executive branch nominees and district court judges from 30 hours to two hours. Despite Senate Republicans’ repeated claims of unprecedented obstruction, President Trump has had more judicial nominations confirmed in his first two years in office than President Obama did in his first four years.
“In the U.S. Constitution – the most enduring and replicated constitution in the history of the world – our founders devised an intricate system of checks and balances. Even though they disagreed on many things, the one thing they did agree on was that they did not want power to be concentrated within the executive branch. They agreed that they did not want an all-powerful king. To this day, we have a powerful legislative branch made up of two distinct chambers – the House of Representative and the Senate – that serve as a check on the executive branch.
“One of the unique ways that the Senate is able to serve as a check is through its authority – enshrined in Article II of that same constitution – to consider and confirm individuals that the President nominates to serve in some of the highest posts in our government. This constitutional check on Presidential power – no matter which party controls the White House – is among the most effective tools of negotiation wielded by the minority party. My Republican colleagues may serve in the majority now, but, one day, the shoe will be on the other foot, and this tool will no longer be at their disposal. Mind you, it’s not a tool to stop business entirely. The pace at which President Trump’s judicial nominees have been confirmed shows that allowing extended debate does not keep nominees from being moved through this body. What it does do is force senators of both parties to be accountable to public pressure when extreme or unqualified nominees are being considered. It also leaves an opening for members to find areas of compromise even in a hyper-partisan environment.
“I know this to be the case because EPW Democrats have used this procedure to the benefit of both sides of the aisle. In the final days of the last Congress, the minority was willing to shorten the confirmation process for several EPA nominees in exchange for hard-won policy concessions. Those officials are serving in their Senate-confirmed positions today because of our efforts to work in a bipartisan manner, negotiate in good faith, and a willingness to allow their nominations to pass when meaningful policy concessions were made.
“Unfortunately, the rule changes made by Senator McConnell today serve only to create more obstacles to bipartisanship, to impede future negotiations on nominees, and to all but eliminate our founders’ designs for the United States Senate to serve as a check on Presidential power. The assertion that this move to fundamentally change how this chamber functions is necessary because of unprecedented obstruction is simply false. In his first two years in office, President Trump had more judicial nominations confirmed than President Obama did in his first four years. But what is truly beyond the pale is to hear that claim repeated over and over again by the same individuals who took such pride in denying Judge Garland – an eminently qualified nominee – so much as a hearing when he was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Today is a sad day for the U.S. Senate, and, I fear, one that will come back to haunt us.”