Senate Republicans are feeling increased pressure from the Trump administration to change the rules in an effort to quicken the pace of confirmations for executive and judicial appointments.
Both Republicans and the White House are growing impatient with what they perceive as unprecedented obstruction by Senate Democrats, who have used the current rules to slow down confirmations.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short on Friday accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of “weaponizing” the rules to keep executive and judicial branch positions vacant.
According to Short, Democrats have forced more cloture votes -- a rule designed to counter filibusters -- in President Trump's first 14 months than the first 14 months of that last four presidents combined.
During the first 14 months of the past four administrations — a span of 56 months under Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton and George H.W. Bush — the Senate held 17 such votes, according to Short.
Short called the obstruction "historic", though as the Hill notes, in 2015 and 2016 Republicans forced a total of 168 cloture votes on Obama nominees.Democrats place the blame on the fact that Trump has taken his time offering nominees for consideration.
“This administration has been historically slow in submitting nominations and has withdrawn more nominees in the first year than any of the past four administrations,” said the Schumer aide.
The Democratic aide also noted there are currently 145 nominees awaiting action from Republican-controlled committees.
Trump has withdrawn more than 20 nominees and failed to submit nominations for State Department posts such as the ambassadorships for Cuba, Egypt, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Sweden.
Regardless, there is an effort to reach bipartisan changes that would speed up the confirmation process, and Republicans are hopeful that Democrats come through.If they don't, Republicans are willing to take unilateral action -- if they can swing it.
Republicans control only 51 seats and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, hasn’t voted since early December, reducing their effective majority to 50.
A single GOP defection would scuttle any attempt to change Senate precedent through a ruling of the chair, which needs to be sustained by a majority vote.