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Senator Lankford Pushes to Reform Senate Rules to Stop Gridlock

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor to advocate for Senate rules reform to end gridlock and streamline the executive confirmation process.  In April 2017, Lankford proposed to reinstate a rule from 2013 in order to reduce Senate post-cloture debate time. This will allow the Senate more time to consider legislation. In December, Lankford testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Senate Resolution 355, which he introduced to address Senate gridlock. 

Specifically, the resolution seeks to 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. The resolution maintains the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time for Supreme Court, Circuit Court, and Cabinet-level nominees.  


We have spent all of this week on four district court judicial nominations. The entire week. No legislation. Because we can’t get on legislation. In 2013, we were in a similar situation to this. That was the minority party at that point being the Republicans were slowing down the process in the Senate on nominations to the Democratic Party, at that point, the majority, and so Republicans and Democrats sat down together and said this is a problem. We cannot get to legislation. And Republicans and Democrats together with 70-plus votes made a two-year rule change in the Senate in the 113th Congress. It was a simple rule change. Two hours of debate for district court judge, eight hours of debate for just about everybody else, 30 hours of debate for Circuit Court, Supreme Court, and Cabinet nominations.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about and the frustration of this. From 1967 until 2012, there were 46 cloture votes invoked. That means they requested a cloture vote, and it went all the way to be a vote. 46 of those on judges and executive branch from 1967 to 2012. Last year, there were 46 cloture votes in this body just in one year. What was from 1967 to 2012 before the total number Democrats did to Republicans in one year last year. The statement keeps coming up over and over again: Why can’t we get on legislation? Because each day is full with dead time, debating nominations, nominations like what passed today unanimously in the Senate, but we had to have cloture time set aside for it. 

This has got to be fixed. The rules of the Senate are set by the Senators. In 2013, the Senators stood up and said this has to stop, and fixed it. I am recommending again that the Senate once again implement the same rule that Democrats led Republicans to do in 2013 now in this year, and instead of doing it for one Congress, make it the rule. If it was a good idea for Democrats in 2013 and 2014, why is it not a good idea for Republicans and Democrats now? That simple rule is when we can’t agree on a candidate, we would only have two hours of debate on a district judge. This week remembering for the entire week it took the whole week to do four of them. We could do two hours of debate for each one if it’s a district court judge, eight hours for just about everybody else, or 30 hours of debate, Supreme Court, Circuit Court, and Cabinet-level nominations. You would think that that would be a slam dunk.