December 19, 2017

Chairman Shelby Holds Hearing to Improve Senate Nominations Procedure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, today conducted a full committee hearing to review Senator James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) resolution, S. Res. 355, “Improving procedures for the consideration of nominations in the Senate.”

The hearing included testimony from Lankford regarding his proposal to reinstate the 2013 Harry Reid rule that reduced Senate post-cloture debate time on certain nominations. The resolution would reduce post-cloture debate time for most executive branch nominees from 30 hours to eight hours and district court nominees from 30 hours to two hours. However, the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time for Supreme Court, circuit court, and Cabinet-level nominees would remain the same under Lankford’s resolution.

In 2017, the Senate has confirmed 261 of President Trump’s nominations, compared to 418 nominations in President Obama’s first year and 483 nominations in President Bush’s first year.

Below is Chairman Shelby’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery:

“Today the Committee on Rules and Administration will receive testimony on Senate Resolution 355, ‘Improving Procedures for Consideration of Nominations in the Senate.’

“I want to thank Senator Lankford for agreeing to appear before us today to discuss the merits of his resolution.

“In 2010, this Committee undertook a comprehensive examination of the filibuster in the United States Senate. That examination was conducted in response to an ongoing debate about invoking the ‘nuclear option.’ While no action was taken immediately following the conclusion of the Committee’s work, the Senate did take steps in early 2013 to modify some of its rules and procedures for considering bills, conference reports, and certain nominations during that Congress. Later that same year the Senate took a more drastic step and invoked the nuclear option for certain nominations.

“Invoking the nuclear option effected a permanent change, as my colleagues well know. But, the other changes, which improved the efficiency of the Senate’s operations, were temporary and expired at the end of the 113th Congress.

“Today we will revisit one aspect of those temporary changes – limiting the post-cloture debate time for certain nominations – and consider whether to restore it permanently, as provided for in Senator Lankford’s resolution.

“Like the change enacted in 2013, this resolution proposes to reduce the current 30 hour window for post-cloture consideration of certain nominations to 8 or 2 hours depending on the type of nominee. This resolution also preserves the full amount of post-cloture debate time on nominations to the highest levels of the executive branch, the circuit courts and the Supreme Court, just like its predecessor.

“In short, this resolution is designed to return the Senate to a time when it effectively and efficiently fulfilled its Constitutional duty to confirm appointments that are necessary to the day-to-day functioning of our government.

“The post-cloture debate time provided by this resolution will, once again, allow the Senate to deliberate, debate, and vote on nominees in a timely way. As was evidenced in the 113th Congress, this change does not inhibit members from debating or deliberating on the qualifications of nominees, it merely shortens what is currently an unreasonably long process.

“Admittedly, I did not support this change in the 113th Congress. I was concerned that once the Senate altered the rules there would be no turning back. I worried that the changes proposed at the time would limit each Senator’s voice and power, traits I believe we have always tried to protect in this great, deliberative institution.

“But, I witnessed something different.

“Nominees, whether I supported or opposed them, were debated and voted on in a timely, practical manner. More importantly, the Senate no longer wasted countless hours waiting – not to hear from colleagues about the virtues or vices of certain nominees; not to debate their attributes or deficiencies; not to discuss whether they were fit or unfit for the job – just waiting for 30 hours of post-cloture debate time to expire.

“In 2013, the Senate was able to swiftly carry out its constitutional duties, and we witnessed a timely filling of judicial and executive branch vacancies. Reducing the post-cloture debate time in 2013 allowed the Senate to stop waiting and start acting.

“This is exactly what we need today.

“The American people are frustrated with Washington gridlock. They believe that we cannot get even the simplest of things done. We need to fix this. We need to restore the process to what it once was.

“I believe this is one opportunity to do just that.

“I look forward to the testimony today, and hope that together, we can support a restoration of this sensible resolution.”