Senator Lankford Rebukes Lack of Bipartisanship to Get Senate Back to Work
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor to express his frustration with the lack of bipartisanship in the conversation of how to make the Senate function again with regard to the nominations process.
Earlier this year, Lankford introduced his resolution, S. Res. 50, to update the rules of the Senate regarding the number of hours of “post-cloture” debate time for which nominees are eligible. Lankford’s resolution passed the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on February 6, 2019, in a vote of 10-9. On March 28, 2019, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the resolution. However, the motion failed yesterday 51-49.
Yesterday, Lankford delivered an impassioned plea on the Senate floor for Democrats to once again join with Republicans as they did under then-Majority Leader Harry Reid to update the rules of the Senate to ensure nominees continue to undergo extensive background examination, debate, and conversation but to also ensure presidents can hire their staffs and judicial nominees can be considered in a timely manner. Last week, Lankford recorded a video to provide Oklahomans with more information on his rules change proposal. Lankford also previously spoke on the Senate floor earlier this year in support of this resolution and its benefit to the long-term functionality of the Senate.
Madam president, Republicans believe regardless who the President is, they should be able to hire their staff. I can say we not only believe that, we practice that.
In 2013 there was an ongoing debate over nominations for President Obama. Democrats and Republicans came together to resolve the time issue for nominations under President Obama. Democrats asked Republicans to join them to say, ‘Let’s fix the problem we have with the length of time on nominations because it’s taking too long.’ And so they made a proposal: two hours equally divided, so it would actually be one hour for district court judges, eight hours for other nominees, which again equally divided would actually be four hours total for other lower nominees, thirty hours for circuit court, Supreme Court, Cabinet officers. Republicans joined with Democrats in 2013. And with 78 votes at the beginning of President Obama’s second term, which may I remind this body, Republicans were not excited about President Obama’s second term. Republicans joined with Democrats on this one principle: every president should be able to hire their own staff and their staff not be blocked. When the American people vote for a president, this body should respect the vote of the American people and allow that president to hire their staff.
Now when President Trump is elected, Democrats have 128 times blocked President Trump from getting his nominees. One-hundred and twenty-eight times. I have for now two years met with my Democratic colleagues, and I’ve asked, ‘Let’s put back into place exactly what Republicans voted with Democrats to do.’ I’m asking Democrats to now vote with Republicans to do. They said no for two years.
So I simplified the proposal and said, ‘Let’s just make it straightforward and simple—Take it from the same principles that Harry Reid put forward under President Obama—Let’s make that permanent, no matter who the president is now or in the future. Let’s make it consistent and straightforward.’ I was told, no, by every single Democrat. With this one exception: ‘I will vote for that proposal as long as it starts in January of 2021. I’m glad you Republicans joined with Democrats,’ they would say, ‘to help President Obama get nominees, but we will not help President Trump and will block him all the way through. Now if you want to open this up for 2021, we’ll be glad to be able to help.’
I want to reiterate again: Republicans believe whoever the president is, when the American people select a president, they should be able to hire their staff. I wish my Democratic colleagues believed the same thing. Because of that, we’re making a change today. I have worked for months meeting with Democratic colleagues trying to find some way that we could come to agreement like was done in 2013 where Republicans and Democrats came together to resolve this. I’ve been rebuffed for two years. Not a single Democrat has been willing to join us in this. Not a single one. That is unfortunate.
At the end of the day, we will try to restore this body back to how it used to function for two centuries—when every president was allowed to be able to get a hearing for their nominees and get a vote in the Senate. For two centuries we functioned that way. I think it’s not unreasonable to be able to function that way again back in this body. I look forward to this dialogue, and I look forward to the day that we can get this issue resolved so we can get back to the work of legislation, because we can’t even get to legislation right now because we’re blocked on nominations. So let’s get the nomination issue resolved as we have for two centuries, and then let’s get on to legislation and finish the task. With that, I yield the floor.