Senator Lankford Agrees: We Need to Work Through August to Get the Work Done
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WASHINGTON, DC –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a floor speech to outline why it is important for the Senate to work through August if significant work isn’t done to complete nominations and the appropriations process before the September 30 deadline. Lankford also discussed the historic gridlock for presidential nominees and his solution to speed up the nomination process during the speech.
On May 11, Lankford joined 15 Senators in a letter to urge McConnell to expedite floor consideration of funding bills, even if the Senate must work nights, weekends, and through the August state work period. Lankford also introduced the ‘No Budget, No Vacation Act’, which would prevent members from traveling during August until the budget and appropriations process is complete. Lankford serves on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, which is a bi-partisan panel that includes members of the Senate and House.
Last year, Lankford introduced gridlock reform resolution to reduce debate time for most executive branch nominees from 30 hours to eight hours and district court nominees from 30 hours to two hours. The resolution would maintain the 30 hours of debate time for Supreme Court, circuit court, and Cabinet-level nominees. The resolution was passed out of committee on April 25. The next step is a vote by the full Senate.
(0:52-2:12) We have two big issues. The reason we should be here in August to be able to get some things done. One is the nominations issue, it’s an issue that has picked up some speed this year. Last year in our nominations process, we had a record slow process to try to get nominations through. This year, more nominations have gotten through but let me just give you an example of what we are up against. Within the past six presidents, there have been a total of 25 cloture votes for nominations in the first two years of the presidency. Twenty-five total, all six combined. Right now, President Trump is at one hundred cloture votes so far for his nominations… Each one of those basically consumed a full day on the Senate floor. Each one. Now, in the past if it was a controversial nominee, there would be addition time that would be requested, that time would be done. But, 25 times over six presidents. Now to do it 100 times for President Trump, it is obviously intentionally slowing the Senate down because when we are dealing with what’s called post-cloture debates in a nominee, you can’t deal with anything else. You can’t deal with legislation, you can’t deal with any other topic. So the Senate comes to a stop.
(2:46-4:32) In 2013, Republicans and Democrats agreed together. Things starting to slow down a little bit in 2012 on some nominees and so Republicans and Democrats together, came together to change the rule for how much time would be set aside for nominees. Harry Reid did a presentation during that time period and supported a proposal: two hours of time for district court judges, eight hours of time for just about everyone else, except for supreme court, circuit court, and Cabinet-they would be 30 hours, still. Republicans joined Democrats in 2013 and agreed on that. For a two year time period, Republicans and Democrats agreed alike, that that was a reasonable amount of time, post-cloture debate. Two hours, eight hours, or thirty hours, depending on who that was. That expired at the end of 2014. I’ve brought that backup, I’ve brought it to the rules committee, the rules committee has debated it, and the rules committee has now voted it out of the committee. My simple recommendation is: this is a Democratic proposal in 2013 for that time period, I think, if it was good for the Democrats in 2013 and ’14, it should be good for Republicans or Democrats from here on out. To not just have it for the next two years but to say: “that’s a simple rule” to get the Senate back to functioning again. My concern is, now with a hundred cloture votes that have been done in the last year and a half on nominations, that next time there is a Democratic president, and there will be in some future time, next time there is a Democrat president, you can be assured that Republicans will do at least a hundred cloture votes to them and will slow down government just as much. That doesn’t help us long-term. We have to be able to get out of this cycle, and we are in a downward cycle of trying to be able to deal with nominees.
(4:45-5:34)The second aspect of this, I want to remind people of is this: we need to be here in August to be able to work through this set time period because appropriations need to be done. Eighteen of the last twenty years, this Congress has done an omnibus bill. That has taken the twelve different appropriation bills, thrown them all together with no amendments, getting the text of it the night before and saying everyone just votes on it tomorrow. Eighteen of the last twenty years….Twenty-five years ago, this Congress would debate, one at a time, those bills; would bring them up onto the floor and amend them. Democrats and Republicans would have input into these bills and then they would pass. Then they would be conferenced with the house and would go to the White House for signatures. That really wasn’t that long ago.
(5:51-6:47)The argument has been: we only have 50 work days left before the end of the fiscal year. The only way to get some of these work days back is to be able to add in August. We have got to get the appropriations process back on track. I would hope that most of this body can remember the early morning hours in March of this year when this Senate passed a 2,232-page omnibus bill that zero members of this body had read because there was physically not enough time to even read it. We got it late one night and had to pass it the very next night. In fact, the House passed it at noon the next day, merely hours after they received the bill. We can’t do this. We can do better but the only way to do it is to get time back in our schedule.