Alexander Invites Democrats to Join Him Again to Speed Up Confirmation of Presidential Nominees

Posted on February 25, 2019

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“I invite my Democrat colleagues to join me in demonstrating the same sort of bipartisan respect for the U.S. Senate that Senators Reid, McConnell, Schumer, Barrasso, Levin, McCain, Kyl, Cardin, Collins, Lieberman and I did in 2011, 2012 and 2013 when we worked together to change the Senate rules the right way.” -- Senator Lamar Alexander 

Washington, D.C., February 25— United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today invited Democratic senators to join him in changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Senate to confirm the president’s nominees to fill the 1,200 major federal government positions that require Senate confirmation.

“I invite my Democrat colleagues to join me in demonstrating the same sort of bipartisan respect for the U.S. Senate that Senators Reid, McConnell, Schumer, Barrasso, Levin, McCain, Kyl, Cardin, Collins, Lieberman and I did and other senators did in 2011, 2012 and 2013 when we worked together to change the Senate rules the right way Alexander said.

“We worked together to make it easier for President Obama — and his successors — to gain Senate confirmation of presidential nominees. As a Republican senator, I spent dozens of hours on this bipartisan project to make it easier for a Democrat president with a Democrat Senate majority to form a government,” Alexander said. “We changed the rules the right way – the Senate passed standing orders with bipartisan support and a new law, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, which eliminated confirmation for several positions. Republicans did not insist that these new rules should be delayed until after the next presidential election when there might be a Republican president. Republicans supported these changes for the benefit of the institution even though they would immediately benefit a Democrat president and a Democrat Senate majority. I propose we do that again.”

In a speech today on the Senate floor, Alexander asked Democrats to join him again in supporting – “or modifying it if you believe there is a way to improve it”—a resolution that would change the Senate rules. The resolution — sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and approved by the Senate Rules Committee  — would reduce from 30 hours to two hours post-cloture debate on most subcabinet nominees and all federal district court judges. Supreme Court judges, circuit court judges and members of 12 major independent federal agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board, would be subject to 30 hours of post cloture debate, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

“Two weeks ago, the Rules Committee gave us an opportunity to do things the right way by reporting to the Senate a resolution sponsored by Senator Lankford and Senator Blunt, the chairman of the Rules Committee. This resolution, which is similar to the standing order that 78 senators voted for on January 14, 2013, would reduce post cloture debate time for nominations,” Alexander continued. “I voted to report Senator Lankford and Senator Blunt’s resolution to the full Senate even though no Democrat voted for it. I will vote for it again on the floor even if no Democrat joins us.  I will also join my fellow Republicans if we are forced to change the rules by majority vote. I do not like the ‘Harry Reid precedent,’ but I like even less the debasement of the Senate’s constitutional power to provide advice and consent to 1,200 presidential nominations.” 

Alexander concluded, “A year or so ago, one of the Supreme Court justices was asked, ‘How do you justices get along so well when you have such different opinions?’ The justice’s reply was, ‘We try to remember that the institution is more important than any of our opinions.’ We senators would do well to emulate the Supreme Court justices in respecting and strengthening this institution in which we are privileged to serve. One way to do that is to join together to restore the prompt consideration of any president’s 1,200 nominees and to do it in a bipartisan way that shows the American people that our written rules mean what they say.”

Later this week, the Senate could begin consideration of Memphis attorney John Ryder to serve on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA.) Ryder was nominated over a year ago and has been unanimously approved by a Senate committee twice. Alexander said such delaying tactics happened 128 times during President Trump’s first two years in office, compared to 12 times during President Obama’s first two years in office and only four times during President George W. Bush’s first two years in office.

You can read Alexander’s full remarks here.

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