Inhofe in the Tulsa World: Democrats play politics with Trump nominations, hurting the nation

Tulsa World

Every time we have a Republican president, Democrats take obstruction to a new level. Nearly everything they do is aimed at blocking a duly elected agenda. This has never been more apparent than the nomination fight against the current Trump administration.

Democrat obstruction reached new heights even before President Trump’s inauguration. Historically, the Senate has recognized that a president needs key members of his cabinet in place as soon as possible and works to confirm several on Inauguration Day or soon after. President Trump took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, and by the end of the month, he only had three cabinet members confirmed. In comparison, President Obama had 10 and Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton each had 13 cabinet members confirmed.

In his first six months of office, Trump nominated 257 various judicial and administration candidates, yet the Senate confirmed only 55 of them. Why? Because Democrats forced a cloture vote — a 60-vote threshold that halted all other legislative business for 30 hours — on 128 mostly bipartisan nominations.

By comparison, in the first six months of the Obama presidency, the Senate confirmed 206 nominees. Only 12 had associated cloture votes.

By tying up routine nominations, Democrats prevent the administration from protecting the environment, ensuring the safety of our roads and rails and defending America from threats abroad.

I thought that the Democrats would get over their sour grapes from the presidential election and return to normal order eventually. Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of the Democrats’ prolonged temper tantrum — and one that leaves vacancies in important positions within the federal government. We can’t let this go on.

Republicans, led by Sen. James Lankford, have changed the Senate rules so sub-cabinet and district court nominations can proceed faster. Now, post-cloture debate is lowered from 30 hours to two hours. Nominations still receive full consideration during the committee process and during pre-cloture, unlimited debate.

Democrats and liberal organizations believe this change is an erosion of the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent. It is not. Before a nomination comes to the floor, the nominee has been thoroughly vetted by all sides and debate on the floor is virtually non-existent. The next time the Senate considers a nomination on the floor, turn on C-SPAN and you will either see no Senators talking or Senators likely talking about something completely unrelated.

This year, the Senate has confirmed four “controversial” nominees: Attorney General Bill Barr, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler and two circuit court judges. These nominations would be exempt from the rule change, but their debate on the floor is illustrative of how disingenuous the arguments are against the change.

In the cases of Wheeler and the two judges, each nomination was actually debated during the 30-hour post-cloture time for less than three hours. Attorney General Barr’s nomination garnered less than six hours of actual post-cloture debate.

This obstruction for obstruction’s sake is even more obvious when nominations have wide bipartisan support. Many times Democrats force cloture votes and full debate on nominations that are confirmed with more than 60, 70, 80 or even 90 votes. This wastes hours of floor time that can be used for more productive Senate business.

Elections have consequences. Democrats aren’t content with the failure of their candidate and policy agenda of the 2016 election —they want to hamstring the duly elected Republican president and Senate from governing. This called for reform of our rules. I support these common sense changes and applaud Sen. Lankford’s leadership to shorten post-cloture debate so we can get back to the business of legislating.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Oklahoma.